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 I was just at the Drs. Office where he shared with me a terrible life lesson learned by his 7year old daughter. Passwords are supposed to be a secret! I know you know this, but how many of you have THE SAME EXACT password for EVERYTHING?? How many of you use a really simple password that is “easy to remember”? In her case she shared it with someone at school, who shared it wish someone else not so trustworthy. The result? Her world was rocked! Yes, it was only her Webkinz world, but they used the information, logged onto her account, sold all her items, trashed her rooms, and spent all her money. Don’t let your real or virtual world be hacked! Do you always leave yourself logged in on facebook or Twitter? We have all read them, the “I’m having a baby!” and worse posts, only to find out later that the person is not with child, but had left their account in the hands of friends or family. While this unguarded account activity is usually just frustrating, it could lead to much more disastrous results that will spill over into the real world.

 Lesson for you? Here are some tips adapted from the University of Texas.

Do:

Do: Use BOTH upper- and lower-case letters.

Do: Use numbers and punctuation marks. The more randomly you place them in your password, the better.

Do: Make your password between 8 to 20 characters long. The longer and more complex it is, the harder it is to crack.

Do: Use at least one of these special characters: ! @ # $ % * ( ) – + = , < > : : “ ‘ .

Do: Create different passwords for different accounts and applications.

Do: Change your passwords regularly, about every 6 months

Do: Keep them to yourself. Avoid giving out your password to others. Once it’s out of your control, so is your security.

Do: Make your password easy to type quickly. This will make it harder for someone looking over your shoulder to steal it.

Don’t:

Don’t: Use the same password for different accounts or applications. If one account is breached, the others will be at risk as well.

Don’t: Use your e-mail password for online shopping sites or free e-mail accounts (Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail).

Don’t: Create a password using your user name in any form (reversed, capitalized or doubled).

Don’t : Use your name, Social Security number or any other personal information that could identify you. This means pet names, girlfriend/boyfriend names, birth dates, phone numbers, license plates, car models or addresses.

Don’t share your password with others.

Don’t: Write them down and store them near your computer. It’s like a key under a welcome mat. It’s the first place someone might look.

Don’t: Provide your password—or any of your sensitive or confidential information—over e-mail or instant message. Think of an e-mail message or IM like a postcard. The information can be seen while it’s traversing the Internet. Also, once you send an e-mail, you no longer control the information in it. It can be forwarded to other people without your knowledge or consent.

Don’t: Enable the “Save Password” option if prompted to do so. Pre-saved passwords will make it easy for anyone else using your computer to access your accounts.

Don’t: Walk away from a shared computer without logging off. This will ensure no other users can access your accounts.

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