We use passwords for almost everything… email, Facebook, Twitter, UBC accounts, online banking, shopping on amazon… the list goes on. But how do you keep track of all those passwords? It’s quite common for people to come up with what they think is one really good password and then use it for all their logins. The major problem with this is, if a cracker (aka, a malicious hacker) cracks one of your accounts – like your email – all your other accounts are as good as done! The cracker can access it all. Even using a few passwords for multiple accounts is just as ineffective. It is important to have unique strong passwords for every single login.
What is a strong password? The general password rule is to have at least: 8 characters, 1 number and 1 symbol mixed in. NEVER use birthdates, parents names, boyfriends/girlfriends names, or any other of the weakest passwords such as “password”, “12345″, “Vancouver1″ and so on. You should really read this well known security expert’s article about passwords on his One Man’s Blog. He talks about weak passwords, how easy it is for crackers to break them, and why & how to keep your passwords safe.
Since it’s very difficult to remember multiple strong passwords, a password manager is a great way of keeping track of them for you. A password manager is an application that helps you generate, use, and manage excellent passwords. There are two basic options for password managers: you can access passwords in the ‘cloud’ (ie: over the internet) or store them within an app on your computer. The advantage of using a cloud password manager is that it is always available to you from any computer that has access to the internet. A really good cloud option is LastPass. The app is free (there is a small fee for the iphone/smartphones app) and is compatible with most popular browsers such as, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. If you would prefer having the password manager directly on your desktop, then 1Password and KeePass are excellent options that work both on Macs and Windows. 1password costs about $40, but is a very user friendly design. KeePass, which isn’t as snazzy looking as 1Password is free and open source. If you use a desktop password manager, then it’s a good idea to have a copy of the file on a USB stick (aka: your thumbdrive). That way you can access your passwords at any computer. Don’t worry though, all the information in the file is encrypted, so the only strong password you’ll have to remember is the one to open the file. That’s it! It really is that easy!
This post was originally created for the Digital Media Project, a joint project of UBC School of Library, Archival and Information Studies and the Irving K Barber Learning Centre. It has been modified from its original form.