• 3 Ways to Reduce Password Anxiety

    by Syverson Strege Commentary | February 1, 2021

    What could happen if you lost one of your passwords? Ask Stefan Thomas.

    Mr. Thomas may lose $220 billion if he can’t remember his password! His forgotten password is required to unlock the 7,002 bitcoins stored in a secure hard drive. Having tried eight passwords so far, he has only two attempts left. Read the full story and learn how he feels about it.

    Where do you store your passwords? The answer to that question may well determine the degree of your cyber safety.

    We asked a few friends where they store their passwords. One man said, “I store them on the back page of my yearly planner.” Another person said she created a Word document and “hid” it on her computer, labeling it with a bogus name like “Elk Hunting 2019” (not the real file name). Another friend said she stores it in a little black book at her office.

    Do any of these places sound familiar? According to a Massachusetts computer consulting firm, here is a list of some popular places where people store their passwords:

    • On post-it notes stuck to your monitor or desk
    • Written on a piece of paper on your desk, under your keyboard, or in a drawer
    • In a loose-leaf or spiral-bound notebook
    • In a paper address book or yearly planner 
    • In a document called "Passwords" that you've created anywhere on your computer
    • Listed on a document with any other name on your computer
    • In an email draft that you've created (but not sent)
    • Posted on electronic "notes"
    • In emails that you have sent to yourself or others

    If you use any of these places to store passwords, your password-protected accounts are vulnerable.

    Aside from the risk of a stolen or forgotten password, most people agree that passwords are a major hassle. Some people can’t remember their numerous passwords, where they are stored, or when they changed them last.

    For many of us, the request to “please enter your password” brings on instant stress or a momentary panic attack. We worry about not being able to access our information, evil hackers, cybercrime, and stolen identities that could result from a password mishap.

    How can you experience less anxiety in a world bombarded by password requests? Try these three ways to reduce your password anxiety.

    1) Keep your passwords all in one place.

    A good recommendation is to use a password manager to file and safely store passwords. A password manager can both remember and generate strong passwords for you. They only require one master password to access all your passwords. You can find a list of best password manager apps in this article. If you are unable to use a password manager, consider writing them on paper and storing them in a locked file or drawer.

    2) Immediately update your master password list.

    When you change or add a new password, automatically change it on your master list. If you do this every time, you won’t be in danger of misplacing a new or changed password.

    3) Choose strong passwords.

    Long passwords or passphrases are generally more secure. Avoid choosing popular passwords like “123456”, “password1,” or “qwerty.” To find out the top 200 passwords, click here. Also avoid reusing the same password on multiple platforms. Check out this article on how to create a strong password.

    We can thank computer pioneer Fernando Corbato, who died at the age of 93 in 2019, for helping us stay secure. In 1961, he was the first person to recognize the need for passwords and to use them to protect accounts.

    At Syverson Strege, we care about the cybersecurity of our clients. At each annual planning session, our goal is to check with and encourage our clients to consider better and safer ways to use and store passwords.

    If you have additional questions about the safe use of passwords, call your financial planner. If you need help with your overall financial planning, call Syverson Strege at 515-225-6000 for a free, confidential, one-hour consultation. 

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