It is extremely important to create a strong password that is unique to each of your online accounts. If you use the same password for more than one account, and one of them gets hacked, then you risk the others being compromised as well.
To defend against fraud, make each of your passwords for your online accounts as different and as complex as possible. Hackers often use password guessing applications, viruses that record keystrokes as you type and websites that are disguised as sites you know and trust.
Your first line of defense against hackers is to be vigilant and create a strong password that will be extremely difficult to crack.
There are many different options for creating your password(s). I've outlined two ways below. You can create strong passwords yourself, or use an application or password generator to create them for you.
1. Create strong passwords yourself:
To create a strong password you should:
• Use at least 8 characters, preferably 8–20. The longer the password, the stronger it is.
• Include special characters such as ! @ # $ % ^ &
• Use a mix of capital and lowercase letters.
• NOT include sequences or repeated characters, such as: 12345678, 222222, abcdefg, or other sets derived from your keyboard layout.
• NOT include any personal information such as your name, birthday, hometown, etc. Avoid information that someone might know or could easily find simply by looking you up online.
• Use a unique password for each online account you have.
Methods for creating a strong password that you can remember:
• Substitute numbers and special characters for certain letters. For example, turn "MyStrongPassword" into "My$tr0ngP@$$w0rd"
• Use an acronym from a phrase as a base (i.e. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" would create "duoaywhtduo"), then add numbers, special characters and a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters.
• Although you shouldn't use a linear sequence from your keyboard layout (i.e. 123456), if you are having trouble thinking of passwords to remember, you can pick a letter, then type in a counter-clockwise circle around the letter (i.e. using the letter g would result in "ytrfvbnh"). Add some numbers and special characters to make it even stronger.
Other security tips:
• Make your account's security/password recovery questions unguessable.
• Use two-step verification where available. For example, accounts on sites such as Google and Facebook offer a code sent via text to your phone that you use in place of your password when logging in on a new computer or mobile device. This is extremely important for your email and Facebook accounts because they are hubs full of information about you, and certainly benefit from added security.
• When you are using a public computer, log out of all accounts and clear the cache and history once you are done.
• For added security, turn on the password feature for your mobile device. Mobile devices like iPhones and iPads save passwords for apps in your device's settings so that when you open an app, it's ready to use. Although this is convenient, it's also a security risk that leaves your phone vulnerable if it is stolen.
How often should you change your passwords?
There are conflicting reports on how often you should change your passwords, and it's debatable that changing your passwords frequently does anything to truly increase security. For more information, check out this in-depth article from NBC News Technology on when to change your passwords, and what kinds of sites and situations where it is actually beneficial to do so.
2. Use an application to generate your passwords:
If you want an even simpler solution to creating and managing your passwords, There's an application called 1Password
that can create strong, unique passwords for you, remember them, and restore them, all directly in your web browser. It can also store your bank account info,
passports, driver's license numbers, and more. All of the data in the
app is encrypted, so it is safe even if your device is stolen. It's
available for Windows, Mac, iPhone & iPad and Android. A single user license for your Mac or Windows Computer is $49.99. The 1Password app for iPhone and iPad is $17.99.
For more ways to protect your privacy and increase your security on the web, check out this great article from Forbes staff writer Kashmir Hill: 10 Incredibly Simple Things You Should Be Doing To Protect Your Privacy.