Spring Cleaning Means It’s Time To Change Your Passwords

3 April 2016

With its warmer days finally forcing winter into submission, spring has long been associated with new beginnings. Grass stretches its roots, pushing through recently thawed soil while fresh buds peek out from branches suddenly full of birds. We, too, have adopted nature’s cyclical pattern, taking a cue from snow’s retreat to dust off our patio furniture and prepare our gardens for a season of growth. As you begin this year’s spring cleaning, we recommend adding something new to your routine: refreshing your old passwords.

From your date of birth, to your bank account number, to your Social Insurance Number, just about every bit of data that constitutes your virtual identity is stored behind a password. Essentially the keys to your identity, passwords are rarely treated with the appropriate amount of care. For example, nearly 3 in every 10 Canadians who share passwords have shared the credentials for their banking account, and more than half have shared the password to their email. To best protect your identity, you must commit to defending your passwords with the same vigilance you would the keys to your home or vehicle.

So, as you create your to-do list for this year’s spring cleaning, make a note reminding you to update your passwords. Making a habit of changing your passwords can significantly bolster your identity theft protection, and taking just a few minutes to do so could save you countless hours cleaning dealing with the costly effects of identity theft.

Don’t recycle old passwords

As you sit in front of your computer, coming up with a new keyword that meets all of the site’s requirements can seem a tall order. No matter how tempting it might be, it is crucial you don’t opt for a password you previously used for that account or any other. By recycling old passwords, you could make a new account vulnerable if your old login credentials were ever compromised without you knowing. Even worse, if you choose a password that is still associated with another account, you could reward ID thieves who compromise one website with access to your data stored on another.

Get creative

Challenged to create a unique password for every site, consumers may also be tempted to use basic passwords that will be easier to remember. While passwords like “password,” the user’s middle name, or his or her spouse’s name may be unforgettable, they are relatively simple for determined fraudsters to guess.

To come up with a password that is both easy to remember and complex, try this trick:

  • Choose a phrase that you will be able to remember, such as a song lyric or statement of fact.
  • Create a password using the first letter of each word.
  • Change the case of certain letters and replace others with numbers.
  • Example: “The professional hockey season starts in October every year” could become “tPh$s!0eY”.

If you are still worried you won’t be able to remember the new passwords for each of your accounts, you can also try using a secure password manager. A password manager is a much safer alternative to writing down your passwords on a piece of paper or in a document (never do that!). For example, Identity Guard’s ID Vault® stores your login credentials and credit card information in a secure environment while allowing you to access any account with just a single click.

Unfortunately, no matter how carefully you craft your passwords and no matter how often you change them, there is still a chance that your accounts could be compromised by factors outside of your control. For those moments, signing up for a credit monitoring service can help you stay notified of certain activity on your credit files that may indicate fraud. To learn more about how you can better protect your identity, contact Identity Guard Canada today.