Stay Safe By Reducing Reliance on Passwords

Mix upper and lower case letters in your password? Substitute the numeral 1 for the letter l? Throw in an exclamation point and other special characters? Who can remember all that for dozens of websites and services?

No wonder it's tempting to turn to apps and services that promise to keep track of your passwords, either on your device or online. All you need to remember is your master password.

But these password managers are like treasure chests for hackers. If your master password is compromised, all your accounts potentially go with it. Services that store password data online are particularly troublesome because they are easier for hackers to break.

Don't do it, I've been saying for years. Now, I hate to say, "I told you so."

LastPass, which offers a service that stores multiple passwords in encrypted form, says it has detected "suspicious activity." Although it says it found no evidence that individual passwords or user accounts were breached, it's advising users to change their LastPass master password.

I advise users to come up with a better system instead, one that relies less on just passwords.

Here are some tips:

All Accounts Aren't Equal

Instead of having to remember dozens of complex passwords, maybe you need to remember only a half-dozen.

Focus on accounts that are really important: Bank accounts, of course. Shopping services with your credit card information stored. And don't forget email.

Who would want your mundane chatter? Well, email accounts are important because they are gateways for resetting passwords for other services, such as your Amazon account to go on a shopping spree.

What About Other Accounts?

Maybe you don't need to worry about a password for a discussion forum or a news site. Yes, there's the embarrassment of someone posting on your behalf, but it's not the same as stealing thousands of dollars. Yet if it's a...

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