While waiting for the bus the other morning, I almost did something very, very silly. "Post a dog's name without an 'A' in it!" some Facebook user challenged and, still half-asleep, I went to reply: "Rosie! Rosie!"
Because, you know, my dog's name is Rosie.
Luckily, someone in the comments reminded me (and everyone else) that these posts, often unwittingly, help hackers get a hold of your passwords or answers to online security questions. People have a tendency to use a pet's name as at least part of their log-on credentials.
I currently don't use Rosie's name to protect any of my online accounts, mostly because I'm familiar with that commenter's advice. But if you've got Fido metaphorically protecting your personal or financial accounts, here are five ways to write stronger passwords in 30 seconds or less.
1. Pick a song lyric, any song lyric
Consider this my favorite password tip ever: Use a long song lyric or catchphrase. They're easy to remember, but hard for thieves to crack, especially if you ...
2. ... Add alphanumeric characters
Any strong password combines a mixture of numbers, letters and symbols. In other words, they look like this: s1leftthec@keoutintherain=(
3. Play with capitalization
Most sites will ask you to incorporate at least one uppercase letter when you set a password. Flex your overachiever muscles and use more. Or, at the very least, don't capitalize the first letter.
Mix things up, like so: cuzTheh8ersgonn@h8H8h8h8H8!!!
4. Repeat steps 1, 2 & 3 across accounts
You don't want to reuse passwords, no matter how complex, clever and/or easy to remember they are. Data breaches happen all the time and if a thief gets a hold of log-in credentials as a result of one, they're known to try the pilfered passwords across the internet. In other words, they can steal your 401(k) log-in and use it to get into an online credit card account, too, if you were using the same password to protect the accounts.
5. Change your passwords regularly
Just in case. Fortunately, there are an infinite number of ear worms, catch phrases and poems out there. Switch out the old for the new every six months or so. Use common trigger events, like New Year's, the spring solstice or your half-birthday (it's a thing) as a reminder.
Worried the hackers already know too much? Here are some ways to tell your identity has been stolen.