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Tips to Easily Choose Good Secure PINs and Passwords

Aug 18, 2007
As it is necessary to be able to remember passwords and PINs readily, we are tempted to use something that we are already very familiar with to make it easier. We are also tempted to opt for universal passwords and PINs for everything because it is easier to remember just one set rather than several different sets. Unfortunately, it is dangerous to do this as a smart identity thief can break them with relative ease.

Basing a password on the real name or user name of a user should always be avoided. Also avoid basing passwords on information that can found with a bit of research on you, such as your spouses name, childrens names, type of car you own, a phone number or vehicle license tag, your address, a parents name, your date of birth, etc.

A common method used by identity thieves to break a password is the dictionary method of attack. This method uses a dictionary in any language to try large numbers of words to see if an actual word is in the password. Reversed words, frequent misspellings and look-alike letter replacements are also checked. Breaking PINs is approached in much the same manner. The thief begins with easy to remember number combinations like sequential numbers, duplicated numbers or numbers that can be years or birth dates.

One solution that is popular is to use a sentence that is easy to recall and use the first letter of each word in the sentence for the password. Using this method, Kennedy's -Ask not what your country can do for you- translates into the password -anwyccdfy-. To make it more complex, mix in some upper case letters and maybe -K- for Kennedy. The year the speech was given can also be added to make the password -Anwyccdfy1961-. It looks complicated but it is easy to recall the year, the speaker and the quote.

Since a great many passwords are case sensitive, the use of upper case letters greatly increases the difficulty of breaking such a password. Symbols can be used with some systems, so using an easy to remember question mark and a dollar sign will make the password Anwy?ccdfy$1961 makes it an even better password. A change like this adds length to the password, making it far more difficult for an identity thief to break. A password should be a minimum of eight characters but fourteen or more, like the example above, is best.

With a PIN, your options are typically more limited, usually to four numbers. It is best to select numbers at random and avoid repetition. You can also use an obscure combination such as phone extension of an employer a few jobs ago, especially if the company no longer exists. Obvious combinations, such as part of your phone number, vehicle tag number, or your birth date, are where a thief is likely to begin testing, so these should be avoided.

To enhance the security of your passwords, you should: Use a separate password for each program or application, do not use a common password for all, Keep all passwords private, do not share them with anyone who does not really need to know. Every three or four months, change your passwords. So do not use your passwords on shared computers such as in a public library or cyber cafe as there could be keystroke software installed. If someone says they are from your bank or some such place and asks for your password, do not give it. Banks and other similar places will never ask for your PIN or password.
About the Author
Leon Edward provides free information online on identity theft prevention, internet privacy and FREE Identity Theft Prevention Checklist at his website Identity Theft Protection

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