When you first register with an online account, in my opinion the most difficult part is not filling in your personal details but choosing a password. In order for it to be strong and unbreakable, experts always advise that the password should be more than a certain number of characters in length and include both upper and lower case letters and weird symbols that are in a systematic order but appear random. That means that the password should include #, $, !, &, £, etc. So someone’s password could be Lx#b$!DS264. This is not anyone’s password, by the way. I’ve written these letters and symbols purely for the sake of demonstration.
The idea is that no hacker is ever going to come up with these passwords no matter how long he spends trying various combinations. The keyboard is filled with letters, numbers and symbols the combinations of which are massive. The password is, therefore, strong. The disadvantage of these types of passwords, on the other hand, is that if someone has multiple accounts that include emails, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, banks, shopping sites, job sites, etc., remembering these kinds of passwords is impossible. That means that many people often end up choosing a password, or passwords, that are easier to remember. Common choices include someone’s date of birth, the name of their pet, the name of someone they know, or the title of a show or a popular phrase.
Common passwords include popular titles and phrases such as ‘Mr Bean’, ‘Only Fools and Horses’ and ‘Liverpool F.C.’; common birthdates used are the months September and October, especially with the years falling in the late 50s to the late 80s; common pet names as passwords are Bella, Hugo and Simba; and one of the most common names are Muhammad, Jacob and Noah.
To be honest doing everything online means having to juggle loads of passwords. For example, if you have ten online accounts that means you have to try and remember ten different passwords. And noting them down is apparently a complete no-no because it might fall into the wrong hands. The problem here is that, if your memory plays tricks on you, you could accidentally key in the password for one account into another account and, thus, have yourself locked out.
It is for this reason may people often use the same password for multiple accounts forgetting the risk of someone successfully hacking into not just one account but every account they have. Sometimes people think that if they change just one character of the password in each account it might help them remember it. The downside there is that a potential hacker has probably already thought of that and may be able to get around it by trying the first password in another account and then changing one character for the next and seeing what happens. It does reduce his ‘workload’. Sometimes it might work, at others it might not but the risk is lower if the password is completely different and, more importantly, unique.
But all that being said, I personally think it’s okay to make a note of your password but not on a random piece of paper. This might sound like a joke, and Ellen DeGeneres did joke about it once, but I think it’s okay to have a discrete notebook where your passwords are stored. A notebook that you never take out of your home. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend including your online bank account details because they are on a different level from your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts.
Now I don’t know if you know this but Edward Snowden, when he is in a public place or in the presence of other people in a room, always puts a sheet over his head and laptop when he keys in his passwords. When asked why he did that, he said ‘they’ were always trying to hack everyone’s passwords to see what kind of activities they are involved in. I don’t know exactly who ‘they’ are, and this might sound scary, but it might also be true.
I suppose the takeaway from this is to have a unique and virtually impossible password to remember for each and every one of your accounts. No pet names, show names or family names are advised. No jotting down passwords on some random piece of loose paper that you might lose or accidentally discard. And if you are going to keep a notebook for passwords, make sure the book is never seen by anyone or even knows of its existence.