New Year, New Passwords

They say a good defense wins championships. The first of the year is a good time to make New Year's resolutions, put fresh batteries in your smoke detectors and…change your online passwords. It’s great practice to change your passwords regularly. Here are a few tips to manage your passwords to protect yourself from online criminals:

  • Remember two rules for creating strong passwords: length and complexity. Stick to passwords that are at least eight characters in length, and remember – the more characters, the better. As a best practice, your password should contain at least one character from each of the following groups:
    • Lowercase alphabets
    • Uppercase alphabets
    • Numbers
    • Special characters
  • Use a passphrase to make a memorable but cryptic password. Using title case with upper/lower first characters from memorable phrases and substituting numbers and special characters as needed helps you create a strong password that you can easily remember. For example, the phrase “I Love to Eat the Walnuts at Wal-Mart!” can turn into a short acronym of sorts that look like this – “IL2EtW@W!”

You can use lines from songs, titles from books or a phrase of your own to make it memorable. Remember to replace certain letters with similar looking numbers or special characters to further encrypt the password. And as you update your password periodically, you can easily rotate one character of the original password at a designated spot, typically at the beginning or end, to keep the integrity of the password and offer updated protection.

  • Use different phrases for sensitive sites | Using the same password for everything can be dangerous. We know that it is difficult to remember multiple passwords; however, if a malicious person cracks the code, they could potentially gain access to your entire digital life. 
  • Keep your passwords protected in a password vault | Keeping track of all your passwords can be a challenge. Consider using a password management tool to store encrypted passwords safely. Many free and paid password manager tools are available. PC Magazine reviewed the Best password Managers in August 2014. Choose the one that best meets your needs and budget.
  • Remember that your password is yours exclusively – don’t share it. | If you regularly interface with an external IT support service that may request your password, set up some sort of challenge response question/answer before giving someone who calls your password or system access. It’s better that you call them first at a number you’ve verified for that IT partner. Protect your passwords like you would your wallet or purse— don’t leave them around and think twice before ever sharing with anyone.

If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft or that your account has been compromised, make sure to report it to authorities and credit services, and call Pinnacle’s Client Service Center at 800.264.3613. For more on this topic, take a look at additional educational materials on Pinnacle’s Fraud and Security center.