Fulltimers and extended travelers will find that moving much or all of their personal business to the web is far more efficient than relying on traditional mail. Waiting for the credit card monthly bill to be forwarded to you or sending traditional checks is slow and there is a risk that this mail could end up in the wrong hands! However, when conducting personal business online (via the web), there is risk, also. You can control some of this risk and the most important method is selecting a very good password and keeping it confidential.
Websites commonly require you to have a user name and a personal password to enter any online site where you may have some personal data. This is obvious with banking and credit card accounts but passwords will be required for many other “personal” sites that you will need or want to access. These commonly include your email, insurance, retirement, prescription service, investments, your phone company, and virtually all your other “accounts,” to name a few. To access your accounts, user names and passwords are commonly required and regularly used.
Any website will likely have users with the same first and last name. For example, with the estimated 21 million users on Bank of America’s site, there are probably several of us named Ronald Jones. This causes the website to require you to create a user name—one unique to you. User names establish one level of uniqueness (to show you are that Ronald Jones). This is the first level of security but user names are typically not hidden.
Select a user name you can remember. For example, I have used the following: ronaldjones and ronjon. Common ones are first initial and last name (rjones). Some websites allow lengthy user names—some as long as 50 characters. If a website won’t allow you to select a particular username, chances are that someone is already using it.
Websites may allow user names to include symbols such as: @#)$&*+}%^ and spaces. Typically, some characters are not allowed and this is determined by the individual website. Some users take their complete e-mail address as their user name (mine used to be: firstname.lastname@example.org) but if you change e-mail providers, your old e-mail address may go away.
Choosing a password is often an exercise in poor judgment, i.e., you choose an easy-to-remember password because, well, it’s easy to remember! If it’s easy for you, it’s easy for anyone to guess it especially if they have just a bit of personal information about you. Since it’s easy to find that information, it’s typically easy to guess “easy” passwords. So, don’t make it about you!
Here’s one way to choose a unique password that is more difficult to guess even if someone has that “bit’ of personal information about you. Take any two totally unforgettable (to you) but unrelated things and combine them to form your password. You need to have at least eight characters (some letters and some numbers) because websites often require that as minimum, but no symbols such as (but not limited to): @#)$&*+}%^ and no spaces. Also note that some passwords on protected sites are case-sensitive. That is, the website will know there is a difference between a “B” (uppercase) and a “b” (lowercase) when used in a password. If so, “Ron,” “RON,” and “ron” will all be different!
There are methods for creating a password—customized just for you—that is also easy to recall. However, since you never, ever write down your passwords—anywhere—you must be able to literally figure out your custom password if you can’t recall it at the moment. What follows are two examples for choosing an easy-for-you-to-remember password…
System #1… Use the city and state where your mother was born and combine it with your father’s birth date. (Assuming you really remember this information and don’t have to look it up when you need it.) Right now, disregard capitalization, so it could look like this…
Your mother was born in Dallas, Texas so use the three letters: DTX (city initial and standard state abbreviation).
Your father was born on: August 26, 1932 (08/26/32) so you will use 082632.
They can be combined in various ways to form numerous passwords. Here are a few combinations:
and on and on… however, you only need one of these combinations to create that easy-to-remember password.
Remember, this is not about you so don’t use your ZIP code, initials, phone number, home/work address, dog’s name, kid’s name, birth date, SSN, license plate number, or anything else connected directly to you including your spouse’s initials, phone number, work address, cat’s name, birth date, SSN, or license plate number. Also, don’t use something that may readily change such as a driver’s license number.
Use two seemingly unrelated things that are very familiar to you. However, use something you can easily recall (or work it out mentally).
System #2… Create a sentence you can easily remember. For example, “Our house is on Main Street in Dallas.” Next, use the first letter of each word to create your password. If case sensitive, it would be… “OhioMSiD” and if not case sensitive, “ohiomsid” or “OHIOMSID”—appearing to be a random string of letters. The website may require you to add numbers to this.
Don’t use any numbers about you that can be easily found such as a street address, number of children, or your age. Use a number somewhat related to you such as the number of schools you attended through the 12th grade, the year you got your first driver’s license, or the model year of your first car.
Combine the numbers with the letters from our sentence to form a password you can remember (or work out mentally) but do not write it down. Suppose you got your first driver’s license in 1965, then combine that with the sentence (above) to look like these examples…
An alternative suggestion is to use bible verses instead of making up your own sentence. Bible verses work well for incorporating a number into the password. For example, the verse: “and God said let there be light. Genesis 1:3” would become the following password…
However, be careful with selecting your verse. For example, the one I used here is much more well-known than some of the more obscure verses that may apply to you and, therefore, be easy for you to remember. Also, don’t pick a verse at random and try to memorize it. You need to be able to recall it quickly and easily even if you happen to be in a stressful situation.
Your (Hopefully) Perfect Password
In a perfect world, you should use some randomly generated password that perhaps looks something like this…
This password contains 14 characters (the minimum considered “ideal”) with a mixture of letters (both upper and lower case), numbers, and special characters (such as @#$%^&*). It must be noted that occasionally special characters are not allowed.
You can even check the relative “strength” of your password. When you finish creating your password, go on the Internet and do a search for “Password Checker.” For example, Microsoft has a site that does this and it will show up with your search. You can put in your password and it will indicate the relative “strength” of it.
No, it’s not a perfect system. However, by using this process, you can create a password that cannot be easily guessed by anyone even if they have limited information about you. However, don’t write it down and don’t send it to anyone.
Practice. Yes, practice this password. Force yourself to use it several times the first day and then taper off until you can recall your “process” for remembering it.