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Does Changing Passwords Make Your Heart Bleed?



Recent security breaches at Target and Neimen Marcus, and most recently the Heartbleed security flaw, have raised a great deal of valid concern about the need to protect online personal information. We were all urged to get online and change our passwords to many sites as soon as a security “patch” was in place. It was already difficult for many of us to remember our passwords, and now the need to change them caused many to cry out in pain.

The digital age is here and passwords are a necessary side-effect of the convenience that computers and digital devices have brought to our lives. Most people grew up when the only thing that they had to remember was their address and some phone numbers. Today if you ask someone under the age of 20 someone’s phone number, they can’t tell you. The only one they have memorized is their own – IF they even know that one. In fact, when asked, “Do you know your mother’s phone number?”, most do not!

In the beginning, when we logged-in to a computer for the first time and/or created our first email account, we had to create a password that we would remember. The vast majority of people used their birthdate or one of these 10 most common passwords (source PCWorld):

1. 123456              
2. 12345
3. 123456789
4. Password
5. iloveyou
6. princess
7. rockyou
8. 1234567
9. 12345678
10. abc123

This started most people out on the wrong path – a path that led to passwords that are easy to remember but aren’t secure. As a rule, folks didn’t trust their instincts for this process, rather they just chose something they trusted themselves to remember. Now people have so many passwords and variations of them, that it’s difficult to keep them all straight…AND they still aren’t secure!

What to do? First of all, leverage your conative strengths now and apply your creative problem-solving energy – it’s never too late to trust your instincts! This advice applies not only to the passwords you create, but the strategy you use to keep track of them too. Here are some ideas for those who initiate in:

                Fact Finder – Choose passwords that are appropriate (perhaps drawing on past experiences) for the specific site or purpose, but follow the best practices listed below.
                Follow Thru – Choose a theme (be careful about patterns as hackers will figure them out) for passwords for certain categories of security following the best practices listed below.
                Quick Start – Your instinct is to use variations of the same password, this can be very dangerous. Try sentences or stories that you can recall easily.  PC World provides this excellent example: "Now I lay me down to sleep" might become nilmDOWN2s, a 10-character password that won't be found in any dictionary.”
                Implementor – Choose passwords that represent something concrete and tanglible that you have seen or touched before. For example: six rose bushes, 6r0sebushe$; or seventh inning stretch, 7th1nn1ngstretch! And don't forget to keep with the best practices below.
                Mediators – Use any or all of the strategies above – just do it!

Imperva provides a list of password best practices, created by NASA to help its users protect their rocket science, they include:

  • It should contain at least eight characters
  • It should contain a mix of four different types of characters - upper-case letters, lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters such as !@#$%^&*,;" If there is only one letter or special character, it should not be either the first or last character in the password.
  • It should not be a name, a slang word, or any word in the dictionary. It should not include any part of your name or your e-mail address.”
  • Kolbe adds – in addition, don’t use your PIN number or birthdate as part of your password either.

Keeping track of your passwords can also be quite a challenge. Writing them down is okay, as long as you don’t include what it’s for right next to it. There are also apps for that, but never forget that apps can fail. This is another way the conative strategies can help.

Get conative while you keep your information safe and secure!

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