Option One Credit Union 8-10
Friday, June 5, 2009

Keep your computer's content secure by creating strong passwords, keeping them secret, and keeping track of them. A compromised password could lead to identity theft or other dire consequences. A criminal could use your information to apply for credit cards or mortgages, or to make online purchases or other transactions.

The first rule of thumb for creating strong passwords is to use a different password for each of your accounts. It may be easier to keep track of just one password, but if a crook discovers that one password, he or she can access all of your accounts.

The second key to a robust password is to make it lengthy. At a minimum, your passwords should be eight digits long, and 14 digits or more is ideal. Using the greatest variety of characters possible in your passwords-letters, numbers, symbols-makes them harder to guess or uncover with malicious software.

After creating your password, you can test its strength with one of the "password checkers" available online such as Microsoft's Password checker and The Password Meter. Use your search engine to locate these and others. If your password tests as weak, make it more complex.

Some password don'ts include:

o    Using personal information such as family names, birthdays, or your address.
o    Using sequences or repeated numbers, like abcd, 1234, or 9999.
o    Using any words listed in a dictionary-they're easy for scammers to guess.

To help you keep track of your passwords, write them down and store the list where others won't find it, but in a place you'll remember. Don't share your passwords with others-children, particularly, may unwittingly pass them on to others. And don't enter them into computers in public places-these machines may have malicious software that can capture your keystrokes for a criminal's use.

If a password is compromised, monitor all information it protects for suspicious activity. If you see such activity, notify the authorities and contact your financial institution for help with related financial matters. But remember, the stronger your passwords, the less likely this is to happen.

Article provided courtesy of Option 1 Credit Union.  Copyright 2009 Credit Union National Association Inc. All rights reserved.


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