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Oct 27, 201403:37 PMOpen Mic

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Cyber Security Awareness Month a great time to check online habits

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So rather than remembering all of your individual passwords, you only have to remember the master password to your password database. For extra protection the master password is encrypted. The thought is that since you only have to remember one password, you will make it sufficiently complicated, you will protect it, and you may even change it more often.

You may not like the password manager, so there are other ways of developing good passwords that you can remember. One method I like is the root-word method. This involves using the same root word in all your passwords but adding something unique based on each website. For example, if your root word is something like “RaceCar43” and you are logging into, you could establish a password like amaRaceCar43zon. Or for Facebook, your password could be FaceRaceCar43book. In this scenario, you just have to remember your root word and the formula used with each site. Obviously, it is important to use a good, complex root word. And, of course, you never want to share your root word with anyone.

Another method for protecting your passwords is to “lie” on the password reset questions. Among other things, these questions ask for your mother’s maiden name, the name of the street you grew up on, or the name of your first pet. First of all, if given an option, you should choose a question for which the answer is not public knowledge, like your mother’s maiden name or the street you grew up on. But if you have no other choice, you can provide an answer that isn’t necessarily true. Just make up an answer that you know you will remember. This way if hackers actually take the time to research your background, they may find what the answers should be, but they won’t match what you actually entered.

Some websites take password security a little further than others by offering two-factor authentication. With two-factor authentication, an additional step is required to access the online account. Most often, this additional step involves sending a random code to a cell phone or other mobile device. So the way this works is when you visit the site you first enter your user ID and password. At that point, the site will send an access code via text to your cell phone. You then enter that code to finally access the site. Obviously, this makes it difficult for other people to enter your account because in order for them to do so, in addition to knowing your user ID and password, they would also have to possess your cell phone.

Yet another solution for remembering difficult passwords is quite simply to let yourself forget them. This might not be ideal for sites that you access frequently, but it might be perfect for sites you seldom visit. This way you have to change the password each time you log in. So you are accomplishing two things. First, you avoid writing the passwords down and, secondly, you end up changing them rather frequently, which will hopefully keep you a step ahead of the hackers.

One final note about passwords: Please do not share them with anyone who does not legally have the right to access your accounts. You truly never know who you can trust. Shockingly, one study found that 32% of identity theft victims discovered a family member or relative was responsible for stealing their identity. That same study found that 18% were victimized by a friend, neighbor, or in-home employee.

Robert Schneider, CFP, RICP, is vice president, relationship manager for Cleary Gull.

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