Keys to the Kingdom

Our lives have moved online. Babies born today enter the world with their own digital identity already well on its way. Much of this is beyond our control, but much of it we do control. Many Americans do at least a portion of their banking online, whether it is to pay a bill or just check a balance. There are laws to protect you if someone hacks your credit card account, but what if someone cleared out your checking account? In our jobs, we have a legal responsibility to protect school and student data. And email? Well, for most of us, email provides the keys to the kingdom. If someone can get into our email, they can reset passwords in all sorts of online places where we work, socialize, and do business.

How protected are these accounts?

Passwords matter. They protect our data. Aside from locking our doors and requiring a password to wake up our computers (both of which are easy to do, but all too often not done), using strong passwords is our best defense against unwelcome intrusion.

This infographic provides a great look at just how careless many are with passwords. Hackers are bright people, and they have smart software that can quickly crack a bad password. Do everything you can to stop them.

The method outlined in the infographic is my preferred method. It’s so simple:

  1. Pick a sentence. “I was hired at York Suburban in 2002.”
  2. Mash it up: “iwhaysi2002”
  3. Mash it up some more: “20Iwh@ysi02”

Notice that the final version is 11 digits long, with upper and lower case letters, numbers, a special character, and no discerable word in any language.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. I forget passwords all the time. That’s why I needed a system to remember them.

  1. In a safe place, I have a paper that lists a whole bunch of sentences. The sentences correspond with the passwords, but any thief would be hard-pressed to know what the heck that paper means if he ever found it.
  2. I made a Google form, and I bookmarked it. The form asks three questions: “What site? What username? What reminder?” The reminder is a key word that corresponds to one of my password sentences.
  3. When I make an account, I click on this form and fill in the fields. My answers automatically go into a spreadsheet that I also have bookmarked. I pull up this spreadsheet all the time to help me remember passwords. I keep this spreadsheet private, but in reality, anyone could look at it. All they would discover is a list of cryptic reminders like “ella” and “j calls me.” These are not passwords. They are reminders that get my mind to the right “sentence.”

One last thing. Not all accounts are created equal. Some sites are pretty unimportant, and I reuse the same password several times for such sites. Some sites are super important, and they get their own special only-use-it-here password. The super important ones are email (the keys to the kingdom!), banking, and facebook. Why facebook? Well, many, many sites are now allowing users to sign-in via facebook. That’s a powerful password! I also change passwords on a regular basis. My bank of sentences is always growing. I have even retired a few sentences! (I recently said goodbye to “michael” — the reminder which got me to one lovely sentence about my husband).

I do lock my door. I do put my computer to sleep before I walk away from it, and I require a password to wake it. I do take passwords seriously. Am I safe? Not entirely, but I am doing everything I can to prevent assault.

If you would like to have some help getting your passwords in order and system in place, please ask. I would be so happy to help.

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6 Responses to Keys to the Kingdom

  1. Dr. Kate says:

    Great advice…..addressing an important topic

  2. cheryl johnson says:

    Thanks Aly, this was very helpful.

  3. Scott Krauser says:

    So important…and easy to accomplish, thanks!

  4. Siri says:

    After you told us this at a faculty meeting I started doing the same thing! An easy to remember, use it for those silly message boards that require you to “log in” even just for reading. A much more secure formula for the banking or credit card ones, and another one totally just for social networks (ie Facebook). Between the school account (assigned) and my codes, I’ve developed a system for remembering them as well!

  5. Perhaps I should stop using “password” for all my accounts. 🙂

    Nice post, Aly. Clear, simple and practical advice.

  6. Donna Joy says:

    Thanks Aly. I have a lot of sentences to start writing!

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