I Was a One-Password Girl & the Hackers Got Me

Linda Sharps

How many passwords do you think you have to remember on a daily basis? Two? Five? Between things like banking, online shopping, social networking, email, and everything else, a recent British study has revealed that it's typical for the average person to need access to up to ten individual PINs or passwords a day.

Naturally, we've all created unique non-generic passwords for each of these accounts and have them committed to memory. Right? …Right? Oh, what's that you say? You use the same exact password for every single website, and it's "Barnaby," your dog's name?

Yeah. Me too, until recently.

A while ago the Wordpress installation on my personal blog was hacked, for no particular reason I could discern other than someone's desire to be a total asshole. Not only did the hacker replace my blog content with the inventive phrase "YOU'VE BEEN HACKED!"—they also cracked my email and changed my login information. It was all fixable, but what a complete and total pain in the butt.

So now I have obnoxiously complicated passwords for all of my web accounts, just like the experts tell you to do. Because it's so much more FUN to laboriously peck out "X194shPmI5x0" every time I want to make a purchase.

(Note: that is not one of my actual passwords. Nice try.)

I'm clearly not the only person who took the lazy route and stuck with one easy-to-remember password over the years; the same British study said that over half of those polled confessed they use the same password for everything. Most folks tend to use personal information in the passwords, like a pet's name, their birthdate, or mother's maiden name—but as I learned firsthand, these choices can be easy for hackers to figure out. Weak passwords can be revealed in a matter of seconds using cracking programs, so if you're serious about your online security, it pays to take the time to come up with a good one.

Three ways to do this:

Use letters from an easily-remembered phrase. Use the first letter from each word in a phrase, line from a song, etc. “My parents' dog's name is Barnabas” could become MpdniB.

Use numbers from a word. Convert a word to its numerical equivalent with your phone keypad to use as part of your password. Maybe something other than 80085, though. (Boobs. Heh.)

Use a password manager. Something like 1Password can generate complex passwords for you and remember them, too. Plus, you can sync it with your phone and other smart devices, so you're never stuck trying to remember your #$%! Paypal login info.

Do you keep track of a bunch of different passwords these days? Or have you been using the same one since you bought your first computer?

Image via Google

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