The Importance of Good Password Hygiene

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Creating strong, unique passwords is one of the most important things you can do to protect your online accounts and sensitive data. Follow these tips based on guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Center for Internet Security (CIS) to improve your password hygiene.

Use Passphrases

Long, random passwords created by password generators are ideal. But passphrases can be an easier alternative to remember. A passphrase is a sequence of words separated by spaces or punctuation. Here’s an example: “Hold Fast Stay True.” Make passphrases longer to increase strength.

Unique Passwords

Never reuse the same password across multiple accounts. Use a unique, random password for every account to limit damage from data breaches. Consider using a password manager to simplify this.

Add Complexity

Enhance passphrase strength by substituting letters with numbers and symbols. You can replace “E” with “3” and “O” with “0” (zero), for example. Adding complexity makes passphrases harder to crack.

Use a Password Manager

A password manager app like Keeper or 1Password can generate, store and fill strong, unique passwords for all your accounts. Follow these steps to get started with a password manager:

  1. Select a password manager app (I recommend 1Password) and create a new account
  2. Create a new master password for your password manager using a strong passphrase
  3. Enable two-factor authentication for your master password
  4. Import existing account passwords into the manager
  5. Let the manager generate new strong passwords for important accounts
  6. Use the manager when signing into accounts or resetting passwords

Change Passwords Periodically

While not required, regularly changing passwords can further limit risk if a password is compromised. Consider changing high-value account passwords every 90 days. A good password manager will also alert you when your password has been discovered in a breach.

Using proper password hygiene takes some extra work, but is essential to protecting yourself online. Developing strong, unique passphrases and using a dedicated password manager will help keep your data secure.

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