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Protect your password from plunderers

How to guard your electronic information with a unique password

March 2, 2012

Password. 123456. Abc123. Iloveyou.

PasswordIf you’ve ever used any of these words or phrases as a password, you’re not alone. These codes were listed among the 25 worst passwords of 2011, according to a study by software company SplashData.

Passwords that are common phrases become an open invitation for criminals looking to steal electronic information. “Choosing a weak password is like leaving your checkbook on the hood of your car,” says Gene Robertson, supervisor of ERIE’s Investigative Services.

If you’re one of the many people using your beloved cat’s name as your password, read below.

  • Keep passwords forever young – Passwords shouldn’t be given the chance to grow old; you should change them frequently. Gene suggests that online banking users change them at least every six months.
  • Switch it up – “People today use the same password for a lot of different accounts,” says Gene. Identical passwords become a problem when identity thieves exploit sources that you don’t perceive as a threat. You might get an e-mail asking for your password from what you think is Facebook™, but it’s really a cyber criminal attempting to use that same password for your bank account.
  • Think outside the dictionary – A good password needs to be at least eight characters long and should never be a word in the dictionary; the code must be complex enough that the criminal can’t use an automated tool to guess it. Here are handy steps to create an impenetrable password:
    1. Choose a phrase or short sentence. For example, I have two dogs named Magic and Comet.
    2. Use the first letter of each word in the phrase. Substitute numerals for the number words and symbols for some of the letters (Ih2dnm@c).
    3. Change that password slightly for each account that you have.
  • Invest in identity recovery coverage – ERIE offers identity recovery coverage, which could save you lots of time and money in the event that your password is cracked and your identity stolen. For $20 to $25 a year, you can add this coverage to your homeowners insurance. Contact your ERIE Agent for more information.
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