Guide 2 Identity Theft - How To Protect Yourself

   
Guide 2 Identity Theft

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Basic Information
 What is Identity Theft
 How It Happens
 Types of Identity Theft
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Commercial Identity Theft
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 If Your Identity Is Stolen
 Secure Passwords

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Guide 2 Identity Theft   >   Secure Passwords

Tips on Good Secure PINs and Passwords


The need to remember a PIN or a password may tempt you to choose something familiar. It also may tempt us to choose universal PINs and passwords that we can use the same ones for many purposes without having to remember more than one set. These are dangerous shortcuts that intelligent identity thieves may take advantage of.

A password based on the user's real name or log in user name should be avoided. Any password that is based on information that can easily be suggested by a little research into who you are should also be avoided: a partner's name, children's names, brand of car you drive, your telephone number or car license plate, the street you live in, your father's name, your birthday, and so on.

A common way that identity thieves break passwords is through a dictionary attack. It simply involves trying a large number of words from the dictionary, in any language, in the hope that a normal word has been used. Similarly, words in reverse, common misspellings, or simple look alike substitutions (e.g. "1" for "i") are all tried..

A similar approach with attempts to break PINs is to start with easily remembered combinations, such as numbers in sequence, duplicated numbers or numbers representing years or birthdays.

Here is one method that you can use to make your password more secure:
  • Think of an easily remembered sentence, then to make up a password out of the first letters of the sentence. If you started with Abraham Lincoln's "A house divided against itself cannot stand", you would get the password "ahdaics".

  • Add additional complexity to your password by mixing upper and lower case letters and adding numbers. Most passwords are case sensitive, so using both upper and lower case greatly multiplies the difficulty of cracking this password. If you were to include an "L" for Lincoln, and the number 1858 for the year in which Lincoln gave this speech, you would get: "AhdaicsL1858". It looks complex, but it is not too hard to remember the quote, the speaker and the year.

  • Some systems also allow the use of symbols in passwords, and if your sstem allows it, you should take advantage of. In this example, you could add an easily remembered explanation mark and a number hash to make the password "Ahdaics!L#1858", which makes it quite a strong password.

    This change has also added length to the password, which greatly compounds the difficulties for a would-be password cracker. You should aim for at least 8 characters in your passwords, and ideally 14 or more.
You are usually more limited in your choices with a PIN, typically to 4 numbers. You should avoid repetition and choose random numbers, or a very obscure combination you can still easily remember, such as your boss's office phone extension two jobs ago in a company that has since closed down! Certainly avoid obvious combinations, such as parts of your telephone number or car license plate number, or the year you were born: these are areas where a thief with your card is likely to start looking and testing.

To keep your passwords secure you should:
  • Use separate passwords in each use, not shared or common passwords

  • Keep your passwords secure, and shared only on a "need to know" basis.

  • Change your passwords every few months

  • Never use your passwords on a shared computer where keystroke logging software could possibly be installed (e.g. at a cybercafe or public library)

  • Never give your password to anyone pretending to be someone in authority: banks, for example, will never request your password or PIN.


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