How To Secure Your Online Passwords

I’m sure most of you have heard about the professional networking site, LinkedIn being hacked today were over 6,000,000 passwords have been taken…apparently. Now, first of all, it’s not as bad as you think. The passwords that the hacker got were protected by SHA1 encryption, so, instead of seeing your password as “Password123″, they see “vhfuvipofhbfoivbfvifobfhpvibfvj;kf;vbvk;fbgfv;3bug9p89389p89hu4g9p” – well something like this anyway, except a lot longer.

If your password is simple, like “Password123″ then it can easily be cracked and the hacker will then know your password, so what you need is a complicated password that is around 12 characters, upper and lower case letters, number and special characters. Something like “RTFWChhf%&EW24uf” is a really strong password that would take many years to crack.

So now you’re probably thinking “How the hell am I supposed to remember that?!”. The simple answer is, you don’t have to. You have a tool that remembers them for you – enter LastPass. LastPass is a free tool that works as a browser plugin, stand alone application or online database that stores all of your passwords for you. It is fully encrypted and backed up on LastPass servers, so you can have all of your passwords anywhere, on any machine. You can also upgrade to the professional version for a mere $12 a year which gives you access to the mobile apps so you have all your passwords on your mobile as well.

You see, LastPass remembers the web address, username and password for all of your accounts. So to logon to Facebook for example, you click on your Facebook entry in LastPass – it will then take you to Facebook.com, enter your username and password and log you in…all in one click. Impressive hey! LastPass also has a really cool password generator that can be used to generate really complicated passwords.

LastPass Password Generator

If you change your password on an account, LastPass will automatically update it for you. It can even store things like form information (so you don’t have to type out personal details over and over to fill out online forms)…and even credit card details. LastPass is extremely flexible with it’s security, so you can change pretty much any setting with it. For example, you can have LastPass prompt for your password any time a credit card is used – again making your online life a lot more secure as all information is encrypted until you enter your password.

I have all my passwords stored in LastPass, they are extremely secure, so much so, that I don’t even know what they are. LastPass does the work for me. Now, there is one huge proviso, LastPass staff don’t have access to your account password. So if you forget your master password then all of your passwords are lost for good – I’m sure you clever guys can remember 1 password though.

Your master password needs to be secure also, after all – what’s the point in having all of these super secure passwords in LastPass, if your master password is “Password123″. I’m going to show you how to create easily memorable passwords that are complicated. So for my example password, I’m going to start with 2 words, my surname and my childhood dogs name – Quirk & Lassie. These can be anything obviously.

  1. First thing I will do is put them together, so we now have “QuirkLassie”
  2. Now, I’m going to substitute letters for numbers that are similar, for example o = 0, e = 3, s = 5 etc. I do this with 3 letters. We now have “Qu1rkL4ssi3″
  3. Finally, I’m going to add a couple of symbols, again, ones that look like the respective letters, we finally have “Qu1rkL4$$i3″

As you can see, “Qu1rkL4$$i3″ is a very complicated password that can be easily memorised. You can also use a sentence “My name is Kev Quirk & I love Linux” is an extremely secure password.

Once you have LastPass setup and running, you can regularly change passwords, not that you really need to, as every account you have has a different password. But, if the same kind of problem as what happened today with LinkedIn happens again, then it would be very easy to create a new secure password very quickly. After all, I changed my LinkedIn password in around 60 seconds, I didn’t know what the old one was and I don’t know what the new on is – but that’s fine, because LastPass does.

To find out more about LastPass and to register for a free account, visit www.lastpass.com.

Are you worried about online security? How do you manage you passwords to make sure they’re safe? Why not tell us in the comments.

How To Secure Your Online Passwords
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