It seems like, regularly, we hear stories about how some database was hacked and personal information was stolen. In such a world, it becomes increasingly important to protect your online accounts.
Whether you are trying to protect an individual account from being compromised, or whether you are trying to limit the damage due to a breach at some other company, there are some things you can do to protect your online accounts as much as you are able.
Be Careful of What Information Your Share in Public
One of the issues with passwords these days is that it is fairly easy to get information about likely password combinations with the help of publicly available information. Your blog, a social media  profile, or other information online can provide clues to your likely password. Don’t build a password around information that is easy to obtain or guess from looking at the information you share online. Your kids’ or pets’ names, birth dates, names of parents, where you went to school, the year you graduated, and other similar information can be found online, or clues to the answers can be found fairly easily. Don’t use this information when creating a password.
If you want to come up with some truly difficult passwords, create a system that appears random, or use a password generator. Random.org can help you create a truly random password with no connection to your life events.
Change It Up
Don’t use the same password  for all of your accounts. One of the techniques used after the PlayStation Network was hacked was to go to different web sites and try the same username and password combination. If a hacker gets your password from one database, all of your accounts are compromised if you use the same password. Change it up by using different passwords for different accounts, and by changing your passwords every few months.
Use a Cheat Sheet
In order for this to work, you need to omit some of the information, or create a clues to help you remember the password without giving it away. This can help you avoid problems if your cheat sheet falls into the wrong hands. Another method of “cheating” is to come up with a system. Use your favorite literary character, or use the first two letters in each word that makes up the title of your favorite song. Throw in a number, and create a method of mixing upper and lower case letters. Then, change something about the password to reflect which account it’s for.
For instance, I might use Scotland the Brave, with the number 73, an underscore and the second and fifth letters capitalized as my system. My Twitter password would be Twi_sCth73Br, while my Facebook password would be Fac_sCth73Br. Both look random, and would be hard to guess. But the system would mean that I could remember my passwords.
You can also encrypt your data using a free service like KeePass to protect your password and login information, or use a locked file on your computer to protect the information.
There is no way to completely protect your online accounts. However, you can make it harder for others to break in, and you can limit the damage when one of your accounts is compromised, preventing unsavory characters from getting into all of your accounts.
(Photo: zebble )