The Perfect Password, and How to Keep Your Information Safe

Perfect PasswordOkay, LearnVesters, it's time to talk about your internet security.

We here at LearnVest have been excited to roll out our new budgeting tool, My Money Center, which lets you link all of your accounts in one place, and see how you are doing on your budget in real time. We take the security of your accounts seriously—you can read more about how we protect your information here—so we decided to give you a crash course on making sure all your financial information is locked up tightly. That includes not only your account at My Money Center, but also your credit card account, your bank account, your investment account and even your Amazon account!

Because let's be real: LearnVest can institute CIA-level security, but there's only so much we can do to keep your information safe if your password is "password123." Read on to learn how to keep your money matters away from the prying eyes of strangers and disgruntled ex-boyfriends alike.

1. Build a Better Password

We know you’re smart enough to avoid using passwords like the aforementioned "password123," or your name plus your birth date. But as hackers get more sophisticated, so should you. There are a lot of different suggestions out there for how to build a great password. (Time magazine suggests using a dictionary word and replacing letters with numbers.) But a dictionary word can be cracked by a computer program relatively easily. So we scoured the internet to see what the security experts from places like Mozilla Firefox and the security firm Sophos suggest. Here are their tips for a memorable yet secure password.

Perfect PasswordChange this password every six months, and don’t use the same password for every account. One of our editors likes to keep one password for sensitive accounts, and another password for all of her social networks and other sites. On a higher level, password-protect your computer and your handheld so no one can wire money straight from your iPhone bank account app.

Oh, and one more thing ... please don't use the password we put together above. This one is just for illustrative purposes!

2. Don’t Take the Bait

Phishers—who try to get you to send them the information needed to steal your money and identity—send out missives that look like they could be from your friend, coworker or a job applicant. These Trojan horses can come by email, text message, Facebook post or by other routes. If an email or Facebook wall post comes from your friend and includes a line like the infamous, “LOL! Is this you!?” or "Someone said something mean about you in a blog," get in touch with your friend some other way to confirm they actually sent it.

Treat emails from corporations the same way. Never respond with your password or other sensitive information—your financial institution will never solicit sensitive information by email. When in doubt, check the email for a customer service number that you can call to verify. If you can't find one in the email, that's a huge red flag. (Read our other tips on saving sensitive information here.)

3. Know Your Network

If you're hanging out in a cafe, it might be tempting to link up your laptop and do some fall shopping. But pause for a moment. Will you be sending your credit card information out on the cafe's Wi-Fi? The one that twenty other people are already using? This would make you an easy target for hackers searching for profitable information. Save the cafe network for sharing your vacation photos on Facebook, not for shopping or paying your credit card bills.

Protect Your Bank Information

Learn what steps to take now
CLICK HERE

4. Check In

If you follow those three steps, your information will be harder to steal—but not immune to thievery. Stay vigilant by checking your credit card and debit card statements for any suspicious charges at least once a month. (My Money Center makes it easy to check every account at once for surprising transactions.)

If you catch charges early, your life will be easier and you can quickly get your money back. Also request your free credit report three times a year to check for unexpected changes to your report, such as loans you don’t remember taking out. (Learn how to do this here.)

  • http://twitter.com/amanaplan Christian Stück

    While the “Build a Better Password” advice is good, it may not be practical for most people nor enitrely scientifically sound. For example, using several scientific techniques, it’s known that a password like the phrase “this is fun” is about 10 times more secure than a password like “J4fS<2"–not to mention easier to remember.  Some simple, scientifically-backed advice can be found at http://www.baekdal.com/tips/password-security-usability.

    • http://twitter.com/jessnepom Jessica Nepom

      I agree with Christian. And, this may be a comic, and intended to be humorous, but the advice is scientifically sound: http://www.xkcd.com/936/

      • Amy H.

        Ah, you beat me to posting this link! :)

  • Carol Harris

    advise was interesting and got me thinking about changing my passwords.  I think I kept all  of them alike out of either laziness or afraid of forgetting what all of them were, as writing them down on slips of paper and consequently throwing them away.  Ye Gods…. thanks for waking up my brain.

  • John Schaeffer

    This is BS; how are you supposed to remember a password like that and then they tell you to have a different password for each site you visit.  You would think with all the rapid advances in Technology, the geniuses could come up with something better.  I was a computer programer for 35 years and half of these programs on the internet are carelessly written with more holes in them than a case of Swiss cheese.

  • Jiji

    helllooo