We all know the rules concerning login credentials and password management online. Never use the same password more than once. Never use something in your password that would be easy for a hacker to guess (e.g. son’s birthday, date you graduated high school, etc.). And make sure you use a combination of upper and lower case letters, no dictionary words, non-repeated numbers, special characters, etc. Most people, however, do no have the memory capacity to remember their login credentials for dozens, even hundreds of websites and online services. Most of us break the rules, and use the same password, or set of passwords, for all of our sites.
All of the major web browsers allow for the saving of password credentials for most sites (usually excluding banks and financial sites). There are also password management software options available for download onto your computer, which can be used to create better, more randomized passwords, but which also suffers from the same deficiency as the previous method. If you log on to your favorite site from another computer, you need to know your password in order to do so. A third option is available in the form of online password management websites. These sites can keep track of your passwords, devise new, harder to crack passwords, and be used across many platforms.
The best passwords are those that are randomly generated out of upper and lower case letters, non-sequential and non-repetitive numbers, and (sometimes) special characters. And, ideally, you should never use the same password more than once. That would mean that your Facebook, Google, Twitter, and all other accounts would be made up of long, 16+ digit passwords, randomly generated, and nearly impossible to memorize. As tempting as it may be, one should never use easy to remember sequences of letters and numbers for their passwords. There are programs into which a hacker can plug personal information about a person (e.g. birthdates, names, pets, addresses, etc.) to generate a list of all possible passwords given the information. So, if your password is your dog’s name, followed by your son’s birth month, your daughter’s birth year, and the year you graduated high school, your password will be guessed correctly by said hacker program.
Password Management Options
So assuming you have painstakingly devised completely random passwords for all of your online sites and services, you’re going to need some way of keeping track of all these meaningless letters, numbers, and symbols. You could write them all down… in ink… with a pen… in a notebook. Notebooks are impossible to hack with a computer, but they are pretty easy to read if you happen to find one laying on the ground somewhere (or you steal one out of a bystander’s pocket). You can also download a software program for your computer that can keep track of these passwords for you, and even automatically fill in Username and Password fields on websites, saving you the hassle of having to type a long sequence of random numbers into your computer every time you want to log into a website. These are very useful, until you try to log in with another computer. You can also sign up for a web-based, online password manager, which will remember all of your passwords, auto-fill password fields in your browser, and continue to be available to you even on a different computer.
Online Password Management
Password management websites have safety concerns which should be understood before use. Websites like Lastpass offer many helpful benefits. You can your account to generate completely random sequences for all of your online passwords. The online service will then remember that password (and associated username) for when you return to the site. Using a browser plugin (a small program or app installed directly within your computer’s Internet browsing program), your username and passwords will automatically be completed on every site you visit. Another option available to the user is to generate a master password. This master password can be typed into the password field on just about any website, and the online password manager will then place the appropriate, randomly generated password in its place (behind the scenes, of course). The problem with online password managers is that you are essentially keeping all of your secrets in one place. If someone gets your main password (such as your Lastpass password, for example) they will be able to gain access to all of your other information, too.
The best possible approach to take to creating unbreakable passwords is to generate a different, random sequence of numbers for every password instance. However, in lieu of a photographic memory, you will need to devise a way to store those passwords for future reference. You can do so on a piece of paper, which will guard against hacking, but not loss or theft. You can download an offline program for your computer which will store all of your passwords for you, making it easier to access them when you need them… unless, of course you’re on a different computer. You can also implement password management websites safety nets, through which you can generate random passwords, and store username and password info at a secure server. No matter which method you choose, however, the most important thing to remember is to steer away from repeated, easy to guess passwords and stick to longer, more randomized sequences.