Building a Better Online Banking Password

By Mike Peterson
In October 20, 2014

Most of my readers know that I’m a pretty big fan of technology, especially where money is concerned. Online and mobile banking options make it easier than ever to save money, pay bills, and track your spending habits.

 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that online banking is perfect: While it provides a super-convenient way to manage your finances, it also creates new opportunities for hackers and scammers looking for easy money. The good news is that by taking a few precautions, you can protect yourself and your money from cybercriminals.

 

The very first line of defense is a good, carefully crafted password. But how do you create the perfect password? How do you know if your password strong enough to hold up against hackers and sophisticated password-cracking techniques? Read on for a list of do’s and don’ts that will help you create a password that’s practically un-hackable.

 

When creating an online banking password:

 

• Don’t get too obvious. “PASSWORD” and “12345” are never a good idea. Enough said.

 

• Do use acronyms or “secret codes” instead of everyday words. One great method to use for password creation is to take the first letter of a quote, song title, or popular saying to create a string of letters that appear to be randomly created gibberish. For example, the phrase “The early bird gets the worm” would become “TEBGTW.” The song title “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” becomes “SPLHCB,” and so on. Don’t be afraid to use whole sentences to create a password – the longer and more complicated it is, the more difficult it will be to guess.

 

• Do use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. The more complicated your password is, the more difficult it will be to guess. To make your password a lot more complicated, consider substituting numbers for letters or adding a few symbols. You can also mix capital and lowercase letters. For example, let’s say I want to use the word “DEBTGURU” as my password. To make it more complicated, I could change it to “D3Bt_6UrU” or “$$d3BT+gURU$$.” Get creative!

 

• Do use different passwords for different accounts. It’s tempting to use the same password across the board for all of your online activity – but it’s not a good idea, security-wise. It’s much better to have a unique password for every account – that way, if one account is compromised your others aren’t at risk, too.

 

Worried about remembering all of those unique passwords? One easy workaround is using one “base” password and customizing it for each account. So let’s say I want to use “$$d3BT+gURU$$” as my “base” password. My online banking password might be “$$d3BT+gURU$$+BNK$$” (as you can probably guess, “BNK” means “bank”). Using this same formula, my online credit card password might be “$$d3BT+gURU$$+CC$$” (of course, “CC” means “credit card”).

 

• Don’t use birthdays, addresses, kids’ or pets’ names, or other easy-to-find info. A good rule of thumb for password creation is that if the information can be found on, say, your social media page or a quick public records search, don’t use it for a password. This information is easy to get, and hackers will often start the password-guessing process with combinations like “Spot1968” or “Susie1976.”

 

• Do change your password every two to three months. The best way to make sure that your password remains secure is to change it often. Changing your password doesn’t cost anything, and it only takes a few seconds – and it’s totally worth it for the extra security!

 

• Don’t let your guard down. Remember that no matter how strong your password is and no matter how often you change it, you should still remain vigilant and on the alert for suspicious activity. Use caution with emails that claim to be from your bank – especially ones that ask you to click links or provide information about your account. Don’t make purchases from unsecured websites. Not sure if a site is secure? Look for a little padlock icon somewhere on the page, or for a URL that begins “https” instead of “http” (the “s” stands for “secure”).

 

Of course, no password is completely uncrackable or unhackable – but by choosing complicated passwords and changing your passwords often, you can drastically reduce the odds that you’ll become a victim.

 

Here’s to happy and safe banking!

 

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.