By Richard Medugno, Marcom Project Manager at Trend Micro
I think it’s a big mistake for spouses or partners to have joint email accounts, or to share the passwords to their individual accounts. Another mistake, equally as bad, is to have passwords that can be easily figured out by significant others, friends, or family members.
Why all the negativity and paranoid concerns? It should be obvious. The violation of privacy is a major issue in our ever-more-connected world. I recommend guarding your privacy and your passwords like they’re your last dollar…Even from those you love, because, as we all know, things can get “complicated.”
Take my friend Katy (not her real name) ̶ She recently experienced all kinds of heartache because her partner, a guy we’ll call Ray, went off the deep end. Katy and Ray had a child together and were apparently happy for a few years, before moving to Chicago. I don’t know what went wrong in the Windy City with the couple’s relationship but Ray started spying on Katy and violating her privacy online, which included gaining access to her Yahoo! email account.
Ray Got Jealous
When Ray saw an email correspondence that Katy had with an old boyfriend on her Yahoo mail, he got angry. He accused her of carrying on an affair, took their child to his mother’s home, and locked Katy out of their apartment. Katy was forced to stay with a friend, until she could get her own place.
During an emotional instant message exchange with Ray, Katy messed up again and typed a message that could easily be misinterpreted, saying that she was so upset that she wanted to “end it all.” Ray printed out the exchange and took it to a judge to gain legal custody of their child. The judge ordered a psychological evaluation of Katy and only weekly, supervised visits for her with her toddler.
Katy’s life has been turned upside down all because her boyfriend gained access to her email account. Since she was out of work at the time when her personal life blew up, Katy had to send an email to friends and family “begging” for money to help her get by.
Katy felt truly violated and humiliated, all because she wasn’t protective of her online account passwords. But that wasn’t the end of it. Another problem: Like many people, Katy used the same password for multiple accounts, making it easy for someone to gain near-total access to her life (banking, work, friend and family communication).
So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t share your passwords with anyone and have different passwords for different accounts. Make sure you change them every few months ̶ to protect your privacy, your identity, and your financial well-being.
Here are some quick tips on passwords:
1. Your passwords should be at least eight characters long and include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and numbers or symbols.
2. You should never use personal information. Anything that is public knowledge shouldn’t be used. Any variation of family names, pets, addresses or important dates isn’t secure enough. Spelling them backwards is not safe either as it is a fairly common practice.
3. Your password should not be a common word in English or any other language. Hackers can use programs that check all words in the dictionary.
4. Don’t pick a password that has all of the characters next to each other (12345 or qwerty) because they are easy to detect if someone sees you typing it in.
5. Change passwords often. If you think that someone may have gained access to your system, change all of your passwords right away on a different, clean, and secure computer. You should change all of your passwords every 90 days.
6. Your user name and password should never be the same.
7. If you feel that you really need to have a list of your passwords, don’t store it on your computer or on a sticky note next to your computer. Keep it hidden away in a secure location.
For more tips about creating strong passwords, please check out this Fearless Web blog: What’s in a Good Password?