Simple Ways to Remember your Passwords

Passwords are the keys to your online world. From Facebook accounts to your stock portfolio, bills and banking, they are something you don’t want the general public to know.

We all know the rules of making an over 8 character password with letters, numbers and a special character, but there’s another rule to follow: Don’t use the same password for every site you use. As demonstrated this week with the latest Facebook virus, it steals your password. What are the chances that it would also be the same password as your email and banking account? Actually, pretty good.

Yet, having multiple passwords isn’t easy for everyone to remember. Here’s some simple ways you can keep track of multiple passwords without going insane.

Password Hierarchies:

There are different levels of password importance. I like to use 4 different levels:

1. Email Accounts.
2. Bank, Financial, and Online Bills.
3. Amazon, Netflix, NewEgg, Other shopping accounts.
4. Miscellaneous – Facebook, Twitter, Forums, etc.

You might think it’s strange to have the email passwords be more important than financial passwords but think about it this way – once your email account is compromised, banks and other places will also reset your password and send it to that email account. Your email account is super important.

You can get away with using a single secure password for each hierarchy. That actually works well for the Miscellaneous level. Once you get into the higher levels, you’ll want an individual password for each site.

Keeping track of multiple passwords:

It’s really easy to make passwords for each site you use in the email, financial and shopping levels. It’s not easy to remember them all. Here are common multiple password remembering strategies:

- Firefox’s Remember Passwords Feature: Firefox can remember passwords (and usernames) for you. That’s great except it can be easily compromised via physical access (if you didn’t configure a master password) and if Firefox has a vulnerability it can be used to dump out passwords. Also, not having to type them leads you into never knowing what they are. If Firefox gets cleared, you’ll lose all your passwords.

- OS X Keychain: OS X’s keychain is actually a nice little password keeper. Your keychain keeps a record of all system and saved passwords encrypted and is accessed via your login password. You can also keep your passwords written down here in the form of Secure Notes which is recommended. Access your keychain via Keychain Access in your Utilities folder.

A little less secure is using Safari to remember passwords. While it’s integrated with the keychain, like Firefox, it’s easily compromised through physical access and if there’s a vulnerability, Safari could also dump the passwords.

- Third party password managers: Similar to OS X’s keychain but not a part of OS X, two highly recommended third party password managers are the open source KeyPassX and the commercial 1Password.

Which to choose?

It really depends on you. Some people are happy with the Keychain and Safari. Others use a third party manager like 1Password. Personally, I remember most of my passwords so all I really need is the Secure notes feature in the Keychain or KeyPassX’s database as a hint when I run into a password that I haven’t used in a while. If you use Firefox, remember to set the master password so it doesn’t display it’s saved passwords to anyone.

Whichever you choose, just remember to use different secure passwords for all your online activities!

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