Post by Hunter Bonner

Computer security.  I can almost sense that just from the title of this article people’s eyes are glazing over with the familiar, “Do we have to discuss this stuff again?”  The answer is yes, and the reason why is that you are likely to be the one at fault if your data is compromised.  Read on, because I know I’ve already enraged you by implicating you as the source of trouble.

Data security is not something that consumers and businesses can simply try to address in a cavalier manner.  It is a serious topic that in today’s digital age can have serious ramifications not only on your business, but in your own personal life.  Yet despite the fact that we do everything online from paying our bills, to telling people what type of salsa we are eating at the next FourSquare check-in, securing one's data is sadly handled in a lackadaisical way.

Take for instance the very basic of security levels: passwords.  Passwords are those secret codes that unless someone has that item, they will never get past that login screen.  But is your password secure?  Most likely it is not.  Rather, it is probably something very easy for a hacker to guess, and probably without a great deal of effort.  Is your password “Password” or your date of birth?  If I just guessed your password here in this article, I’ve got some news for you.  Your password stinks, and you might as well not have one at all with a password like that.  That was cutting I know, but it’s because I care enough to tell you the truth!

Passwords should be complex and difficult to guess.  They should never be something that is personally identifiable with you, such as date of birth, last 4 of Social Security Number, or anything like that.  Also, passwords should not be recycled, meaning, that you shouldn’t use the same password on different sites.  I’ve been guilty of this in the past so I am preaching as much to myself as I am anyone.  They should be a combination of letters, numbers, and characters.  The more you have, the better off you are.

If you are in need of a program or tool to help you generate strong passwords, there are a plethora of choices out on the web.  A quick Google search will pull up several options, many of which are free, that will generate passwords that are random characters that will be very difficult to figure out.  If you go with the pay for services, you can actually just have to remember one password to access all your randomly generated ones.  I highly recommend seeking out services like these, because as recent news stories about hackers stealing people’s login information shows us, the name of your favorite pet for your password is not good enough.

Keeping your passwords secure is good.  What is not good is writing down your passwords!  I see this all the time both in homes and especially in businesses.  It is just a major NO NO!  Now there will be those who will say that they have to do this because they will not be able to remember all those passwords.  I will again point them to the options I mentioned earlier.

The main reason why people continue to still write down passwords, which again, is careless and dangerous, is simply due to laziness.  Yeah I said it!  It is a simple matter of them not taking the time to properly secure their information because convenience trumps security in their minds.  Here are some things to consider for those who feel that Post It Notes are a great way of storing passwords.

Imagine you have someone over to your home.  Could be a repairman, could be even a friend.  They walk by and see these colorful, eye catching sticky notes all over your computer screen.  You leave the room for just a few moments, and in those few moments, they capture your passwords that you have written down on a sticky that says, “Bank Login”, or, “Brokerage Account.”  A day or so later you check your bank account and see a massive withdrawal.  What happened?  You happened, is what happened.

How about for business owners?  Take a walk around the office and you will soon find out that more employees than not have passwords out in plain sight.  Is this the impression you want to leave with your existing and prospective new customers?  To have passwords out in the open sends a message to them of, “We do not care enough to secure your data.”  They will take their business elsewhere, believe me.

Some will say that traditional passwords are on the way out, and we are heading more towards biometrics, such as fingerprint scanning.  That may be, but for now, it’s still usernames and passwords.  Therefore, make your passwords secure, and difficult for someone else to guess.  You will be better off, and it sure beats dealing with an identity theft issues down the line.

Follow Hunter on Twitter: @HunterBonner, or check out his blog

Nitie Atamenwan