“I’m Insecure”…or…”The Top 500 Worst Passwords of All Time”

We are all guilty of it at one time; creating an insecure password. There is a myriad of excuses that we make to justify our password infractions (can’t think of one, can’t remember it if it’s too complicated…etc.). With the ever present threats from hackers and from information piracy, we all need to do do what we can to protect ourselves. Besides…creating a strong password just makes sense doesn’t it?

Much to my chagrin, my own Gmail account was recently hacked. I am not a novice to password security or of the need to protect sensitive information, but this really made me sit up and take notice and to re-evaluate my username/password usage very seriously.

I think there is an assumption that people just automatically know what constitutes a strong password. But for those of us who need a refresher, here we go:

Tips on Creating a Secure Password
• Make sure it is alpha-numeric (letters and numbers)
• Mix up uppercase and lowercase
• Do not use real words (words found in a dictionary)
• Do not use personal information (names, birthdates, license plates)
• Use a passphrase. (Take a sentence or line from a song and make it into an acronym and substitute letters for special characters like $ for “S” and ! for “1” etc. This makes it a lot easier to remember an abstract phrase that doesn’t mean anything)
• Use different usernames and passwords for different accounts
• Change or rotate your passwords frequently
• Do not share your information with anyone
• Do not write down your usernames or passwords anywhere! ever! (as a former computer tech, you won’t beileve how many times I went to an office to see usernames/passwords conveniently displayed on monitors on bright yellow post-it notes!)
• MOST IMPORTANT! make sure you are not using a username or password on the Top 500 Worst Passwords of All Time list.

Some other common usernames and passwords to avoid:
ncc1701 – The ship number for the Starship Enterprise (and adding A, B, C, D or E does not suddenly make it more secure!)
thx1138 – The name of George Lucas’s first movie, a 1971 remake of an earlier student project
qazwsx – Follows a simple pattern when typed on a typical keyboard
qwerty – Another standard keyboard pattern
666666 – Six sixes
7777777 – Seven sevens
ou812 – The title of a 1988 Van Halen album
90210 – Some lame show from the 90’s ;-)
8675309 – The number mentioned in the 1982 Tommy Tutone song. This song supposedly caused an epidemic of people dialing “8675-309″ and asking for “Jenny” (in my own defense…I just kept getting asked for the area code by the operator…)

With all that in mind, protect yourself by getting in to the practice of creating strong passwords at every occasion. Be confident and stop being insecure today!

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