We have passwords for everything – our computers and cell phones, our garages, and, for some of us who can’t control our snacking habits, even our refrigerators are password protected. Many services that you use such as email, online banking, and your apps for shopping will automatically prompt you to reset your password with a new one; but how often should you really be changing your passwords to keep your information protected?
Personal vs. Shared-Device Passwords:
First thing’s first: we all know that we have the same password, or a variation of it, for everything we use. Of course, that’s the easiest way to keep yourself from having to send your forgotten password to your email, which you’ll then have to sign into, and change your password yet again. While it saves time and energy to have the same password for all of your logins, it’s never a good idea to use your personal passwords for shared computers.
This isn’t to say that you have a malicious coworker (which, you might) who would sign into your personal accounts using the password from your work computer, but, as the saying goes, it’s always good to keep your work life and personal life separate. The same goes for your work and personal passwords.
What Passwords Should I Be Changing?
The sweet and simple answer is: all of them. If you want your information to have maximum protection, you’ll need to periodically change your passwords to ensure that you don’t get hacked. If you made an email account specifically to get your fourth free trial of your favorite online radio streaming service, no need to go back and change that password. But it’s safe to say that the more you use a particular website, email address, or online service, the more you should be changing your passwords.
How Frequently Should I Change Them?
The current, most common recommendation for changing your password is once every 90 days, but do you really need to be changing your passwords that often? For your most important accounts that need the most protection, like your online banking account, you’ll want to change your password at least once every 90 days, if not more frequently. And that doesn’t mean you can be lazy and change your password from “password1” to “password2” – if you really want to maximize your protection, you’ll have to get more creative than that. Something as simple as adding an “e” or “b” to signify that it’s your email or bank password will be a reminder for you and a head-scratcher for a hacker. For other passwords, such as your social media profile or movie-streaming account, you can wait as long as a year to change your password (or longer, if you really feel that daring).
Tips for Changing Your Password:
Though it’s a little extra hassle, keep a list of all of your passwords somewhere safe – and not on your computer. Have a hard copy of your passwords tucked away in your desk or on a thumb drive so that they’re easily accessible to you, but not to your potential hackers. Keeping all of your passwords similar, but not exactly the same, can also help when it comes to trying to remember what exactly you chose a few months ago. If you find yourself forgetting whether or not you’ve changed your password, set a schedule to change all passwords at the same time so that you never have to search through the depths of your memory to figure out what password you used when you signed up for your account in 2009.
Just like wearing a seatbelt, passwords can be annoying to remember but are there for your protection. Don’t get caught with your proverbial pants down and leave your personal or professional information up for grabs.