JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)    by Sheila Blackford  ©2013   Believe it or not, the most common password is the word password. Before feeling smug about that unique password you created, think about how many sites where you have used it. Fess up; you are not alone. The aggravation of forgetting a password has led many people to use one password everywhere. The danger is that if a hacker comes upon your password and a list of your accounts, the hacker can try to enter these other accounts with the password already known. How could this happen? I will share my own experience about when my personal gmail account was hacked.

I must fess up: I used one password on all non-financial related sites. The Gmail Hacker got into my gmail account, looked around in my in box and pulled up my Facebook account email. How did I find out? The Gmail Hacker began getting emails sent to my gmail address. Discovering what had happened, I changed my gmail password to a unique strong password then tried to deal with Facebook. I contacted Facebook to report I had been hacked and wanted to insure that the Gmail Hacker would be shut down out of my Facebook account. I also changed my Facebook password to be another unique strong password. To my aggravation, I periodically get emails from Facebook addressed to the Gmail Hacker asking to return to Facebook. I delete these emails, uttering a curse upon Facebook for ignoring my report of being hacked by this person(s). My hacker did not go by the name Gmail Hacker but I do not want to add to his/her hacking ego by repeating it.

So lesson learned. Use a strong password, strong because it’s length and complexity render it difficult to breech. Many sites now have a password strength meter to check how strong this password choice is compared to safety guidelines. Current security standards show that a safe password should be a minimum 16 characters long made up of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Your safest course of action is to use a password generator otherwise human nature resorts to a pattern that a hacker could figure out. Randomness and unpredictability are qualities that will keep your password safe(r).

Jotting your list of passwords on a post it and and sticking it on your computer monitor is not a good practice at the office or even at home. There are a number of good password keeper programs or apps that are very helpful. Be sure to create a long, complex, random and unique password to access your password keeper. Google password keeper and you’ll see there are password keeper apps for iPhones, iPads, android devices, web-based, or downloadable to your laptop or desktop. Some you might want to check out include Password Keeper (www.password-keeper.net), KeePass Password Safe (www.keepass.info.com), RoboForm (www.roboform.com), LastPass (www.lastpass.com) and eWallet (www.illiumsoftware.com/eWallet/). Whichever password keeper you use, keep it safe with its own unique password.  Now get busy changing all those unsafe passwords!

Posted by SBlackford

Sheila Blackford is an Oregon attorney who has been a practice management advisor for the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund since 2005. She loves writing, riding her horse, and taking long walks with her husband and their dog.

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