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How to Create Strong Passwords and Prevent Hacking & Phishing Scams

Years ago, when online shopping first became a popular way to do business, I remember being one of the many cynics who thought it would never catch on. I was certain that most people would be wary of giving websites access to credit card and financial information when there was always a possibility those sites might be hacked.

Fast-forward a decade and a half, and I and the other naysayers are happily partaking in mobile banking and one-click shopping. In some ways, this is the story of how technology disarms even the most nervous critics.

On the other hand, however, recent events have proven that risks do indeed exist. In January 2012, the online shoe retailer Zappos.com revealed that hackers had caused a data breach that compromised the information of up to 24 million customers. But that data breach was nothing compared to the hacking scandals that hit both Sony and Citigroup in 2011. Hackers were able to steal complete credit card information and millions of dollars from those major sites and their customers.

Before you abandon online shopping and banking entirely, it’s important to remember there are ways to protect yourself from hackers – both before and after a site you frequent is attacked.

Strong Password Protection

Creating a Secure Password

It’s a major pain in the neck having to come up with a different password for each secure site you frequent, not to mention the frustration that results when you can’t remember a password. But having a strong password can mean the difference between keeping your accounts secure and someone living large on your dime.

According to CNN Money, the most popular password on business systems is “Password1.”  We’ve all been guilty of coming up with something overly simple. However, hackers are aware of our mental blocks when it comes to remembering these passwords, and they use it to their advantage. As CNN points out, “The number one way hackers get into protected systems isn’t through a fancy technical exploit. It’s by guessing the password.” So it pays to make your password longer and more complex.

To create a strong password, it must be relatively lengthy (eight characters or more) and have a complex string of characters, including numbers and non-letter symbols. If that kind of mental gymnastics is already making you feel exhausted, don’t worry. You can make an easy-to-remember password that is difficult for anyone else to crack. For example, instead of using a name or a word, start with a sentence:

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