One of the most important things you can do to protect your online privacy is use a password manager such as LastPass or Bitwarden. The advantage of password managers is that you only have to remember one master password, while the password manager can create different incredibly complex passwords for every site you login to.
But I’ve noticed that some people, especially elderly, are so intimidated by such software that they end up simply writing passwords on a sticky note or, more likely, they just reuse the same password over and over.
The problem is that anywhere you use your password, people behind the scenes may be able to see it, or hackers who hack into sites can steal it. If you aren’t using a different, complex password for each site you go to, you will learn the hard way why online security is important.
Here’s the thing: it’s pretty damn easy to simply look at a list of passwords and see who is using a password manager and who is using the same password over and over again.
For example, a password created by a password manager could look like this: !V*#XytT6F45345iatn7yMs#3WQjWy
While a password that you remember would be something like this: jimb1967!!#
Again, I urge you to use a password manager (see my article about password managers here). But if you’re simply not going to do it (be honest), there is another way; you can create your own secret formula for creating passwords.
If I were to create a password formula, this is how I’d do it…
Please note: This won’t be as good as a password manager, but it will be MUCH better than just using the same password over and over again.
First of all, what makes a good password? Here’s a good definition I found, “Ideally, each of your passwords would be at least 16 characters, and contain a combination of numbers, symbols, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and spaces. The password would be free of repetition, dictionary words, usernames, pronouns, IDs, and any other predefined number or letter sequences.“
In addition, a password formula needs to…
- Be something that you will remember.
- Change from site to site.
- It needs to be simple enough that you will actually do it instead of reverting to old habits.
Step One: Choose two numbers that you will remember (not your age or year you were born). I’d pick 42. This is a number I would remember because it’s a significant number from a book I like (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).
Step Two: While the first two numbers are static, we want the third number to change each website you go to. So count the number of characters in the URL and add that number next. So, if you are logging into Facebook.com, Facebook has 8 characters, so I would add the number “8” behind the 42, so it would be: 428
STEP Three: Choose a “base” word phrase. This should be something that you’ll remember, but not be directly related to you. Such as “the trout is on fire”. I have no idea why I came up with that phrase, but it’s memorable and it’s 16 characters without spaces. You come up with your own phrase. So here’s what we have so far: 428thetroutisonfire
Step Four: Next, we need to add some characters that will change depending on what site you’re on. I would choose the 2nd, 3rd and 5th character of the site. So, if the site is Facebook.com, you would take the “a”, “c” and “b” and capitalize the middle one. So, the password so far is:428thetroutisonfireaCb
Step Five: Finally, add one or two symbols into the mix, such as !#.
So, here’s what your passwords would look like…
Your Facebook Password would be: 428thetroutisonfireaCb!#
Your NewYorkTimes Password would be: 4212thetroutisonfireeWo!#
Your Twitter Password would be: 427thetroutisonfirewIt!#
The key point is that you have a long, complex password that is different for every site you log into. Hopefully, this formula is something that is easy to remember, but if not, you can change it. This formula I created is just an example.
One final point…
If you are at a public place, like your workplace, don’t write your formula down on a sticky note where a nosy person could find it. Commit it to memory. Use it a few times and it should stick. But it is VERY IMPORTANT that you do write your formula down somewhere and store it in a secure place AND tell your significant other about it.
I hope this helps. Do you have other suggestions?