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Choosing the right password

Originally posted 29 March 2002

Most of us are careless with our passwords. We choose our kids and pets names, our birthdates and anniversaries. We never change them and keep the same password forever. All of this makes us vulnerable to some sort of theft.

Passwords and PINs are important and should be chosen with care. If they fall into the wrong hands it can cost you a lot of time, money and embarrassment. Your Internet password is as important as your banking Personal Identification Number.

While all of us are aware of the dangers of letting other people know our PINs and credit card details, we're too casual when it comes to protecting ourselves. Most people have their Internet account linked to their phone bill, credit card or bank account. With your password not only can criminals run up bills for excess time or downloads, they can use your account to hack others, send spam or post offensive and illegal material.

The first step to securing your password is to stop others knowing it. Don’t stick your password to your monitor and don’t give it out to other users. Even your children are a risk, we have seen cases where kids have let slip passwords to their friends with expensive consequences.

You then need a password that is difficult to guess or crack. The best passwords are a combination of six or more letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t choose a common phrase and NEVER choose the same as your login. Remember that most fraud is an inside job, from someone you know, that’s why kids and pets names and birthdays are out as well.

Password Ideas

Use your street number, followed by suburb or street name, followed by post code. For instance 700Harris2007.

Choose the date and location of your last, or next, holiday. Eg, 25May03Surfers

Use your grandmother maiden initials followed by her birthyear, followed by your mothers maiden initials and her birthyear followed by yours (e.g. db21ds43sw66).

You could substitute numbers for letters. You substitute 3 for e, 0 or o, 1 for i or l, etc. So the password Doris becomes D0r1s.

Another technique is to use a phrase or rhyme you’ll remember. It could be the initials of your school motto with the year you left. You could use years your football team won the premiership and initials of the captains. There are all sorts of possibilities. Be creative, and keep in mind you have to remember them.

The most secure way is to use a randomly generated password. We've put some links to password generating sites at the bottom of this article. But be warned, you have to remember them!

It is also important to vary your passwords. Having the same password for everything is dangerous, if one password or PIN is discovered all your accounts are at risk. Try to have two or three and change them on a regular basis.

It's also important to change them when there is a change in your life or business. If you break up with your partner (business or personal) then you should change your passwords and PINs. If you run a business you should change them whenever someone leaves the business. It is no joke to find your bank account empty, your cards maxed out and a two-thousand dollar Internet bill. This does happen.

This may all sound alarmist, but your passwords and PINs are as good as cash to the wrong people. Even if you are covered for the losses, undoing the damage done can be time consuming and frustrating. Keep your passwords safe.

Further tips on secure passwords

Hackers attack e-bay accounts

Password generators

Updated 8 January 2003



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