Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin: April 2013

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Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don’t let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months

- Clifford Stoll

Any given day, a user can login to a dozen different websites via phone apps or internet browsers. A varying degree of personal information is behind those logins, from shopping details and saved credit cards to even more sensitive information like bank accounts. It is very important that you do not sacrifice security for convenience when it comes to passwords to safeguard your gadgets from malicious users. Here are a few tips to help keep your personal information safe.

  • Do not use the same password for different accounts. Even the most sophisticated password used on an insecure site can open you up to compromising accounts on other secure sites.  Use different passwords and consider the following tips while you do so.
  • Change passwords regularly. Change your passwords every six months to a year, and be careful to not reuse passwords you have already used in the past or for other sites.
  • Keep it unique. Don’t repeat characters, and don’t use all the same sort of character for a password. Avoid using common patterns on the keyboard (e.g., ‘QWERTY’). Don’t use words that can be found in a dictionary. It is best to use nonsensical phrases or random characters to avoid easy guesswork. And never use personal data, like a birthday, in a password.
  • Variety is key. It should be at least an 8 character combination of letters and numbers using both lower and uppercase, and at least one special character like punctuation, such as an exclamation point or question mark. The longer a password, the better your chances are at making it a secure one.
  • Want to check how secure your passwords are? Check out this website to find out for yourself: howsecureismypassword.net.
  • Passwords should not be optional. Make sure that when it comes to personal devices, cell phones, laptops, and even desktop computers, that there is a secure password required before logging on to prevent access to any passwords you may have saved on your computer, not to mention other personal documents. It may be more convenient to keep these devices unprotected, but you are leaving yourself open to theft of more than just the device – the accounts and information within as well.

Prey, an app that can help you recover stolen digital devices including laptops and phones, is available at preyproject.com. The app is free to download and try out, but there are a variety of paid options for as little as $5 to be able to track 3 devices. Prey allows you to track your device from the internet or via an SMS message to gather information about the device’s location or trigger specific actions on your machine.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin : April 2013

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