If you haven’t experienced the misery of having one (or more) of your online accounts infiltrated by hackers, consider yourself lucky.


Unfortunately, my family is not in that lucky group. A few months ago, my husband and I spent an uncounted number of hours dealing with an “incident.” It was frustrating, demoralizing, and completely unproductive.


The degree to which criminals adapt to the latest and greatest ways to protect your information may make you feel helpless.


However, you are not helpless. There are some simple steps you can, and should, take.


The list below is not comprehensive, and I count on readers to add their comments, personal experiences, and recommendations to this blog post.



The Basics of Password Management


Make your passwords impossible for you to forget but very difficult for others to guess.


Avoid anything obvious. Examples: 123456, password, birthdays, anniversaries, names of people in your life.


Use a passphrase. A passphrase is a random collection of words, interspersed with special characters and numbers.


Think of your favorite quote and use the first letter of each word. Then, add some special characters to the end.  Here’s an example: 2bon2btitq!*# (“To be or not to be, that is the question!”)


No sticky notes under your keyboard. Even if your building is secure, sticky notes are not.



Intermediate Steps for Stronger Password Management


Your browser can help you out. Safari and Chrome can remember your passwords and  have settings you can enable to suggest strong passwords.  However, if you allow your browser to remember your password for you, make sure your computer and phone are secure.


Avoid using the same password across multiple platforms. One vulnerable social media account can be the downfall of your bank account if they share the same password.


Use two-factor authentication whenever it is available. Once you set up Google Authenticator on your phone, this isn’t as annoying as it may seem.



More Advanced Password Management


Because password management has become a problem for most people, several companies have emerged in recent years to help address the issue.


Password manager programs store all your passwords in one place. They are typically installed as browser extensions and you pay an annual fee for them. Once the password manager is in use, you enter one, strong, single password and you get into all your accounts.


PC Magazine reviewed a bunch of them here. There is also a free option, called Keepass, you can explore here. A blogger that I trust, Janet Barclay, recommends Roboform.


I am not an IT expert and encourage you to research the best solution for you. All I can promise is that a cross-your-fingers-and-hope method of password management likely will lead to a potentially horrible and unproductive situation.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.