Newsletter #1

We've all received those weird emails: a friend writes that she's stranded in a foreign hotel and urgently requires you to send money. Or that she can solve all your problems if you just click on this link. 
 
Or maybe a message like that has been sent "from" you to everyone in YOUR address book.
 
Mildly embarrassing, yes. But it could be so much worse!  When the bad guys get your passwords, you can be at real risk.
 
One of the most common and dangerous mistakes we see is people using the same passwords over and over again. In a perfect world, you'd have a different password for every website you access--a nice, long, complicated one. But we only have so many brain cells, and they're full of more important things, like what time is dinner. So what to do?
 
Three Levels of Passwords
There is no such thing as perfect security; there is only a balance between safety and convenience. If your passwords become too complicated, then you'll end up writing them down (not very secure) or forgetting them (very inconvenient). Here are our three simple rules for managing passwords in a way you can live with.
 
1. Use a unique password for your email account
The single most important password in your life is your email account password because it is the "master key" to almost everything else. (If you have ever reset a password for another account, how did it work? Usually by sending you an email. So if someone can get into your email account, they can control everything). Make sure the email account password one is:
 -  different from every other password you use; 
 -  long (at least 8 characters, 9 is better), and 
 -  includes both upper and lower case letters and numbers, and ideally other characters too. 
 
That doesn't have to be as hard as it sounds;  a variation of, for example, your childhood address might work just fine (23Elm$treet). 
 
2. Use a different set of secure passwords for sites with financial or sensitive information
If you bank online, access credit cards or medical records, use another set of unique passwords for those sites that are NOT the same as the password as your email address, but same rules. Length is important.
 
3. Use VARIATIONS of a simple password for all the everyday stuff
Making reservations on Opentable? Ordering prints on Shutterfly? Watching movies on Netflix? Those are lower-risk activities, but they all still require passwords. Come up with a password that is easy for you to remember (not your birthday, your dog's name, etc.) and then tack on something different for each website, for example:
 
Opentable: 12bananas!O
Shutterfly: 12bananas!S
Netflix: 12bananas!N
 
It's simple, easy to remember, and fairly secure. That way if one website's user login list is hacked, and your password is stolen, it won't be so easy for the thieves to get into all your other accounts.
 
(There's a lot more we can show you about easy ways to manage your passwords, but this email is long enough!)
 
Now, what are you waiting for? PLEASE, protect yourself online. Set aside a few minutes now to make sure that, at the very least, you are using a unique password for your email account. (And remember that you will need to update the password on any device that picks up your email, like a smartphone or an iPad).
 
Stay Safe!