Secrets to picking great passwords

May 6, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Whenever computer security becomes an issue, someone will invariably say "pick a good password." It seems we all have dozens of them, but what is a good password?

Get your most used password in your mind. Is it your pet's name? A number like 1234 or maybe 007? That's not good. Talk to your company's IT guy and he will tell you use something like Jc.9.8.7. Really? We aren't going to do that. So what can we do?

"Here's the deal... I feel like with passwords you have to come up with something unique if you don't want someone to know it, but when it gets that unique I cannot remember it myself," said Ben Pillgreen of San Francisco.

That's it in a nut shell. We know what we are supposed to do, but it is hard to do and it is important.

"We really all in danger and it is no longer a question of if we are going to be victims of identity theft, but when," said Adam Levin, the consumer activist and founder of Credit.com.

He says the problem is worse than you think. And if your computer gets infected with malware forget about it.

David Pollino is a fraud prevention officer at Bank Of the West. He said, "The biggest thing people don't realize is when you are infected with a virus the first thing the virus normally does is dumps all of your saved passwords and sends them to the bad guys on the Internet, within milliseconds."

That means you need to change your passwords and fast -- but to what?

Levin says start by ignoring the truth. He said, "Get one of those sample questions but then when you come to the an answer, lie. 'What is your Mother's Maiden name?' 'Superman.' 'What was the name of the high school you attended?' 'Smallville High.' In other words have an answer that only you would really know, that even people who know you wouldn't know, because it is not a real answer."

What is your favorite movie? Steal the plot. Our bank security officer says you can have a secure computer for a song.

"It is good to use longer password if at all possible. Some people use music lyrics and string those together," said Pollino.

So pick a couple of movies and a couple of books and you'll have plenty of password material.

Both of our experts say an easy way to incorporate numbers and symbols into a password is to use 1 for an "I" or and "L", and use a $ for an "S".


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