P@$$WORD! NOT PASSWORD

April 22, 2015 Laura Hale Brockway

by Anthony Passalacqua, Risk Management Representative, TMLT

We can sometimes be too neglectful of our passwords. We give them out freely, or post them on our computer screen, or use only the minimum requirements to create one. We sometimes forget that passwords are our key, signature, or stamp. Ask yourself, would you leave multiple keys to your practice out in the open? Would you sign any document put in front of you without looking? 

Sharing your password is akin to giving people the key to your business and allowing them the opportunity to sign anything for you. In our current, constantly changing environment we forget how important it is to have a good password and how important they are to us. Outside of a locked door, a strong password is one of your last barriers to an individual accessing or changing sensitive information in your name

How to create a strong password

According to Microsoft, a strong password should:

  • be at least 8 characters long;
  • not contain any names;
  • not be a complete word;
  • be significantly different than previous passwords; and
  • contain both uppercase/ lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

Simply put, add as many elements as you can to make it easy enough for you to remember, but hard for another to guess.  Many make it too easy for hackers, by using passwords such as, “123345,” “qwerty,” or even “password” as their passwords. Avoid this. Also, try not to create a password from simple sequences found on your keyboard or common words found in dictionaries. Also, avoid anything that’s too personally identifiable to you, such as your home address, phone number, or the last four digits of your SSN. One trick to making a good password is to use an acronym that only you know and then mix it up.

Examples

Word Example:  As an example of building a password from a word, let’s use the word “password.”  On its own, this would be easily hacked. It uses just one whole word, and is lower case.  “Password” is always at the top of lists of the most commonly used passwords. Why? It’s easy to remember. If you are going to use “password,” which I hope you don’t, I would suggest using a combination of special characters in place of the letter that would be easily identifiable to you. For instance, “Pa$$w0rd” may work. Using a combination of letters, special characters, upper and lowercased letters, as well as numbers (0 instead of O) can make a weak password stronger (“Pa$$w0rd” or, even better, “P@§w0rd!”).

Acronyms Example Acronyms are another good option, especially if they make no sense to another individual, but make a lot of sense to you.  For instance, instead of “I love to be a doctor,” you could use the acronym “!Lv2badr,” which breaks down into ! (I) Lv (love) 2 (to) b (be) a (a) dr (doctor). This makes your password both effective and strong since it has a combination of special characters, numbers, and upper- and lower case letters. Remember to make your password easy for you to remember.  Try to stay away from name combinations that could be easily guessed, such as linking family member names or the names of pets. Instead, consider using a line from your favorite book. For example, the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1, “To be or not to be, that is the question”, could translates into a password 2B0n2bT!t? . Below are some more examples of what you may apply to your password to help protect yourself.  

 

Current

Replacement

I

!

A

@

A

&

I

*

S

$

O

#

O

0 (zero)

G

6

Alt+any number combination on number keypad (exp alt+21=§)

Many different characters

 

Once you start to use a core password it should help you move away from basic, common passwords and into more advanced and strong ones.

Read Part Two: Passwords: Changing them and saving them 

About the Author

Laura Hale Brockway is Assistant Vice President of Marketing at TMLT and has more than 17 years of experience in communications, 15 of those years with TMLT. Ms. Brockway has also worked for Seton Healthcare Family and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. An honors graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Ms. Brockway holds an Editor in Life Science (ELS) certification from the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences. She is also a contributor to Ragan Communication’s PR Daily website and is the author of the blog, impertinentremarks.com. Laura Brockway can be reached at laura-brockway@tmlt.org.

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