A week from today, on February 13, Goochland County Public Schools will be hosting an event at JSarge.  Community members will have the opportunity to learn about social media and how to participate safely. We are working on resources to share with attendees, and I have been writing about passwords this morning.

I have written about passwords before, and I have spoken to almost every GHS student about passwords at some point this year. Here is my advice on passwords.


What’s your password?

Most of the time, your answer should be silence. Passwords have become increasingly important as our lives have moved online in so many ways. From email, to bank accounts, to Facebook and Instagram, our passwords are the only thing standing between a possible hacker and our reputation.
Creating secure passwords and safeguarding them requires some effort. Not expending that effort can lead to huge headaches. Here are a few rules to follow when creating passwords.
  • Use at least 8 different characters
  • Use at least one upper case letter, one number, and one special character
  • If you are allowed, change your password regularly
  • Don’t use incremental passwords such as superman1, superman2, superman3 when changing your password
  • Don’t use the same password everywhere
With all this in mind, how do you create passwords you can remember? Here is one example of how to create a good set of passwords.
Think of something you like and words related to it. Let’s say you like music, and one band in particular. Here is how to make passwords out of that:
The Beatles – fab4Beatles!
You could make other passwords for other accounts related to the same theme.
R1ng0’sdrums
pau!th3Walrus
Lennon1M@gine
G3org3Gu!t@r
Of course, no matter how good your passwords are, they are only effective if you keep them to yourself. Author Clifford Stoll‘s famous quote is a great piece of advice when thinking about passwords: Treat your password like your toothbrush: Don’t let anyone else use it and get a new one every six months. Sometimes it is not possible to change your password, but if you keep it safe, you don’t have to.
Here are a few tips for safeguarding your password:
  • Do not say it aloud as you type it
  • Do not write it down, especially anywhere near the word “password”
  • Do not share it
  • Be aware of who is watching as you type your password
  • If you are using a shared computer, make sure “save my password” is not checked
Keep in mind all these strategies reduce the risk that your accounts may be compromised, but it might still happen. If you suspect any account has been accessed by someone other than you, change your password immediately, and alert people who need to know (network administrators, parents, teachers). If you are not allowed to change the password yourself, make sure you contact the appropriate person immediately.