It’s time again to move your clocks forward o ne hour. You’ve heard that every six months when you “spring forward”, it’s a good time to change the batteries in your smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, flip your mattresses and replace screens with storms windows. But did you also know that computer experts recommend changing your passwords to critical computer and online areas twice a year as well?
Changing your passwords to log on to your computer or access critical stored information gets you in the habit of having a different one every so often. At the same time, it reduces the chance that someone else will be able to “break in” to your computer files or online information. Experts caution though that you should n’t “sequence” your passwords to make them easier to remember. If someone gets hold of an old password of yours, “green03,” and it doesn’t work, it won’t take long for your average computer hacker to guess the new password is “green04” or “green05.”
It’s a good idea to have different passwords for different things. This can be hard to do in practice because there are so many things needing passwords. Experts say having a couple different passwords can be helpful. Use one for less important things like your log on to the New York Times online or an Internet message board, and another, more complex one for more important things like your online banking or the place you store sensitive business documents on your hard drive.
Try to vary your passwords by using things that aren’t easy to guess or find out, like your Social Sec urity number, your birthday, or child’s name. Another good idea, experts say, is including both letters and numerals in passwords. A good way to do this is to substitute numbers that look most like the vowels for a, e, i and o. “A” can be “4”, “E” can be “3”, “I” can be “1” and “O” can be “0”. A password for an “agent” might be “4g3nt.” These letter/number combinations are harder to guess but also, harder for a hacker to remember if they somehow are able to see them very briefly.
Whatever you do to make it easy for you to remember your passwords but hard for others to guess, consider changing your passwords when you change your clocks, detector batteries and replace any broken sprinkler heads. You may be very glad you did!
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