We’ve all heard it’s important to keep our online banking passwords safe and secure, but often, our behavior doesn’t reflect this knowledge. In fact, according to Pew Research:
– 41% of online adults have shared the password to one of their online accounts with a friend or family member
– 39% say that they use the same (or very similar) passwords for many of their online accounts
– 25% admit that they often use passwords that are less secure than they’d like because simpler passwords are easier to remember than more complex ones
Are you guilty of any of these bad password habits? As you can see, you’re not alone.
However, all habits can be changed. Here are some tips for creating the strongest possible online banking password to keep your accounts safe.
1. Make a Password Longer Than Six Characters
Most accounts require six to eight characters in a password — but don’t stop there.
Tech expert Kim Komando says, “Seven characters can be breached in minutes, and six or fewer characters will take mere seconds.”
You could even create a password with 12 or more characters that are also unique and complex using uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers.
Interested in learning more about online banking best practices? Read our guide:
2. Use Uppercase and Lowercase Letters, Numbers, and Symbols
There was never a time when “password” was a great password. Most sites require you to use all the elements listed above, and even if they don’t, you should do so on your own.
But doesn’t that make it more difficult to remember and, therefore, easier to get locked out of your online banking account?
Well, you should write down the password somewhere if you think you’ll forget it (we’ll get to that in a bit), but there is a clever way of creating complex passwords that are easy to remember.
Try picking something like your favorite song lyric, then taking the first letters of each word and using them to create a password, all while mixing cases and substituting symbols for letters.
For example, let’s use “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are” as our lyric. You would take the first letter of each word and get:
To make it even more complex and secure, let’s mix in lowercase and uppercase letters and switch out some letters for symbols and numbers:
And voila! We have a really strong password that will be easier to remember than a random jumble of letters, even though that’s what it looks like.
Mixing uppercase and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols doesn’t mean “Password123!” would make a good one. That leads us to our next tip.
Related: (VIDEO) The ABCs of Online Password Security >>
3. Don’t Use Children’s Names or Common Words
Using personal details such as your child’s name or your favorite sports team makes it easier for someone who knows you (or can view your Facebook account!) to guess your password.
Along those same lines, you shouldn’t use common words for your password because it’s easy for hackers to crack.
You might think that sounds unlikely — it would take them years to try all the different words and combinations out there.
But in reality, they have the tools to shorten the process to a matter of days, if not minutes. It’s what’s known as a dictionary attack.
In a dictionary attack, hackers use programs that speed through a list of common words (like a dictionary) to try to break into your account. The programs take massive amounts of words and throw them at your password until the right combination clicks into place.
So if your password is “buckeyes” or something similar, we strongly suggest changing it — as soon as possible.
4. Use Separate Passwords for Each Account
Using the same password for a group of online accounts may be tempting so you don’t have to remember several passwords, but having different passwords for every account is much more secure.
If you have the same password across multiple accounts, a hacking or leaking of a single account can compromise ALL of your accounts.
Even if you create a super strong password for your online banking account, using it for other accounts weakens its effectiveness.
5. Final Advice: Storing and Generating Secure Passwords
We’ve gone over how to create a strong password for your online banking account, but what’s a safe way to store it? Because let’s face it, the strongest password is one even you might have trouble remembering.
You have a few options. It may sound old-fashioned, but there’s nothing wrong with writing your passwords down on a piece of paper that’s kept in a safe place. There’s some debate about this online, but typically for home users, it’s the easiest and most effective way to keep track.
The argument against this is that if your house is broken into, the thief might find your password list, or someone in your own household may hack your accounts. But, in that scenario, you have more significant problems.
Another option is to use an online password manager to store all your passwords. That way, the password manager can fill it in when you go to your online banking account or another password-protected site.
However, if you’re using a shared computer or a laptop that you take everywhere (and therefore might one day forget at the coffee shop), you might want to rethink this.
Additionally, when using a public computer, a good safety practice is to say “no” when a browser asks you if you’d like to save your password. Also, always log out of any accounts you access from public computers.
More Online and Mobile Banking Tips for You
We’ve gathered some of our best online and mobile banking tips into one comprehensive guide. If you’d like to learn more about online banking best practices, keeping your account secure, and more, check out How to Get the Most Out of Online and Mobile Banking.
Also, while keeping your account secure with a strong password, you can rest easy knowing that your bank is taking security measures to protect your information. At Mercer Savings Bank, we use the latest technology to encrypt your data and have security measures to ensure your account is locked up tight.