“Please create a password that contains exactly 27 characters, 1/7th of which should be upper-case, including 5 unique special characters that must be separated by a number, and no letters that have ever been used in one of your previous passwords.”  What!?  How in the world is anyone supposed to keep track of all of these?

I’ve seen spreadsheets of passwords that are password-protected, notebooks of passwords kept in a desk drawer, and my dad who just keeps random Post-It notes of login credentials loosely gathered under his keyboard which makes me cringe every time I see it.  Thankfully there is technology that can help us access our technology, but what are the best systems to use when we have ever-increasing digital footprints?  How do we remain secure and sane at the same time?

Password-setting guidelines

You probably know this by now, but there are a few big no-no’s when it comes to creating passwords.  For starters, don’t use the same exact password for everything. That way if it happens to get stolen, you only have one login credential that has been compromised instead of all of them, and only one login to reset as well.  As you’ve likely experienced by now, this often isn’t possible since almost every institution has different password requirements and what works for one may not for another.

If you’d like to be able to remember your passwords for multiple logins without using the same exact password for each, try using one password that you can slightly vary based on the site.  For example, have a main password such as CharlesIsAwesome->$$, and then add on two characters to the end based on what site you’re using it for.  If it’s to login to your Wells Fargo account, the password would be CharlesIsAwesome->$$wf, etc.

Also, passphrases are much more difficult to hack than passwords.  What’s a passphrase?  It’s simply a longer string of random-ish words.  These are often more secure (and easier to remember) than a string of random characters such as Bi2$sW*$WgO!!.  Most hacking software starts to break down after around 10 characters, so a passphrase such as WoolyMarshmallowBeyonce1 is much more difficult for humans or computers to hack.  Just make sure it’s not something simple like your full name, a song lyric, or anything else guessable.

Software options

There are lots of password-manager software solutions available to help you keep track of all of your passwords.  LastPass and RoboForm are two popular options, but you can Google Password Manager Software and compare your options.  Most of these have a free version when not used for commercial use.

If you use software, make sure to use one that has a good app for your phone that syncs with the desktop version, since most of us login to sites just as much through our phones as through computers.

Not only can these store passwords, but they can also help with generating those strings of random character-type passwords and then storing them for you so you don’t have to go through the hassle of coming up with a password and remembering it in the first place.  Of course, all of these password managers will require some sort of master password to use, so make sure to have a strong master password that you don’t use for any of your other passwords.  This is one that you certainly wouldn’t want stolen!

Another benefit of password manager software is that it allows you to share some or all of your passwords with family members, so that there is someone who can access your online world if something happens to you or you just need someone to have access to certain logins.  They don’t get to see the passwords themselves, but have “access rights” to them.  This is nice because you can revoke their access later if needed without having to change your passwords.

A Final Word

Whether you choose to use a password manager, a passphrase, a variation of a singular password or any other system, know that there is no perfect solution.  Every system has a flaw, and there’s nothing you can do to keep your passwords and identity 100% secure.  But Proverbs 27:12 counsels us that “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”  It’s much more foolish to do nothing than to use a system that might not be 100% hack-proof.  If you’re waiting for the perfect solution, you’re going to be waiting forever.

Hopefully this helps keep you secure and sane in our ever-increasingly online world.  Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you on the journey!