Why Change Password?

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Why Change Password? a reader asks…

I don’t do a lot online, and don’t need a password manager. I have maybe a dozen online accounts to keep track of, and use the same password with variations for each website. I keep reading about hackers getting “troves of passwords” but don’t see how that really would affect me. So why should I go and change my passwords like everybody recommends?

I’ll give you the two biggest reasons why you should re-think how you manage your online security. First, do you think that professional hackers haven’t already figured out the most common ways people like you and me deal with passwords? Your ‘same-password-with-a-variation’ method is dangling candy to them. Hackers use sophisticated, custom-built computer servers to make millions of account password guesses every second.

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Hackers build software programs that use dictionaries of commonly used passwords with algorithms to substitute characters and try variations. If your password is 21 characters long or longer, then you might have a fighting chance. Any shorter, especially less than 13 characters and you are hopelessly outmatched – a computer can figure out your password & methodology faster than you can.
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The second reason is that you are dependent on those dozen or so online entities to protect your password. The sad fact is, I will guarantee that at least 1/3 of those online entities have been hacked. It doesn’t matter if they are email, social networking,online banking/credit card, or shopping websites, they have almost certainly been hacked at one time or another, and will be again. So at least some of your passwords are probably already in the hands of hackers, who use their computers to analyze password patterns and can easily crack your methodology for constructing passwords. That gives them the ‘in’ to your entire digital life.

Don’t think some person in a hoodie is hunching over their computer looking at your online profile and researching your social networking pages and other digital fingerprints you left behind. It’s all done with these sophisticated computers and programs. Heck, even artificial intelligence is being put to work in this nefarious world. These hacking systems work so much faster than a human, it’s ridiculous. Like I said, you’re hopelessly outmatched.

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So it’s not enough to simply change your passwords and be done with it. Hacking is an ongoing, changing battle, and constant vigilance is important. That’s why I strongly recommend using a password manager. You could use my favorite, LastPass, 1Password, or any one of the half-dozen other ones available – something is better than nothing. What a password manager does is not only let you use long and unguessable passwords. It also lets you easily change them.
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That’s where constant vigilance comes in. Anytime you see online or in the news that a company you deal with has been hacked, it’s time to change that password. Simple as that. Let your password manager create a very long and strong password for the website, and you’ll not need to worry if your account is compromised. Don’t wait a week or two, change it right away, before a hacker can access your account and do damage.

 

There are currently 674 reader comments on my articles, care to join in? Use the Leave a Comment form below/at the bottom of any existing comments. This is a good place to ask follow-on questions on this subject.

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