Many people feel secure by creating a file on their computer and storing all of their passwords in that one file. Usually they name it “Passwords,” which is like going on vacation and leaving the front door wide open: A person who steals your computer has access to all of your accounts!
Almost anyone who works in an office is familiar with the person who has his or her passwords on sticky notes all over the workplace. Often this person uses sticky notes to post his or her security code for the computer on the monitor. Generous fodder for the disgruntled co-worker!
Once I visited a “friend of a friend” and I noticed that she used cute little magnets on her refrigerator to post her passwords for her online accounts. Anybody walking into the kitchen could see the passwords for the usual networking sites — Facebook and Twitter –, and the password for her credit union account. It was a secure password with no words, lots of symbols, numbers, and a few letters. It was 12 characters long. She had done it all right, but it was posted where everybody could see it! It was available to the carpet cleaner, the neighborhood kids, and even a “friend of a friend”!
If You Can’t Memorize Your Passwords
Ideally, we would memorize our passwords to keep them secure, but in the real world, very few of us can remember our numerous passwords. We have too many accounts,– computer code, software applications, bank and ATM accounts, online businesses, voice mail and email — each requiring its own password. The next best thing to do is find excellent hiding places. If you believe that someone has found your hiding place, you need to change your passwords immediately. That is the down side of having passwords written down, but if you are clever in hiding them, others will rarely stumble upon them. The important thing is to not let anyone see you access your security codes.
Book ‘Em, Dano
Keep your passwords safe from cyber thieves by putting them in a book. I went to a yard sale and bought a tattered copy of John Sandford’s Sudden Prey. I’ve written my passwords in the white spaces (between chapters and in the margins). It fell apart while I was writing my passwords in it, so rubber bands hold it together. I’m sure that deters people even more. Select a book that no one is likely to look at. Avoid reference books, such as dictionaries, and journals. Either of these could attract someone’s attention. Fiction books aren’t always welcome in the workplace so pick a nonfiction book that is thin and inconspicuous. At work, for added security, I change books every time I change my passwords.
It’s In the Bag
Another secure place to hide your passwords is in the Celestial tea box. Before I started using the books, I used this hiding place. I pulled up the liner and slid in a small paper containing my passwords. Anyone who happened to get a teabag didn’t know what was underneath the liner. This trick worked at home and in the office.
If It Works For Cars
I gave this tip to my friend. We got a magnetic key holder from the automotive section. She puts a paper with her passwords in it and sticks it securely to the underside of her desk. She is very careful to make sure no one in her cubicle (four workers in the one cubicle) sees her access it. If others are in the cubicle, she puts her purse or jacket on her lap so the others will think she is getting an item out of a pocket or something. This has been a secure hiding place for over two years.
More Bad Hiding Places
Pill bottles, notes under/on a blotter, under the keyboard, behind the monitor (almost as bad as on the front of the monitor), in the desk drawer, in your purse/wallet, daily planners, calendars, in a notebook, on the back of a memo pad, in a candy dish, in an envelope in a drawer, and so on. These are all places that I have seen or heard about people putting their passwords. None of these hiding places are secure.
Passwords on Post-its? You Bet!
For a unique way to hide your password in plain sight, read “Passwords on Post-its? You Bet!” at klaatu.anastrophe.com. And if you need help creating a great, secure password that you can remember, read my article “Create a Memorable yet Secure Password.”
In that article about creating secure passwords, I share the story of a friend whose Facebook account was compromised with a pornographic picture. A hacker had replaced her avatar with the obscene photo so that it went to every contact on her friends list. In looking back, we deduced that this might have happened one of three ways: a stranger hacked her site, a friend who has her password played a dirty trick on her, or someone saw her password and took advantage of her. She admitted that she kept the password on a bulletin board in the kitchen. Her reasoning was that it was convenient to work on her laptop while dinner was cooking. Several days before the attack, she and her boyfriend had a bad fight. Without proof, she is reluctant to blame him, but that thought will always taint their relationship. She learned the lesson, but in a hard way. It will be a long time before anyone at her job will stop gossiping about it since one computer savvy co-worker got a screen shot of it. The morale is to be very careful where you put your passwords.
While we talked, she admitted that several of her friends share their security passwords to gaming sites and social networking sites. I wrote the article “Why Keep Your Passwords a Secret” for her and anyone else who thinks password sharing is a good idea. You can find it here on Associated Content.
Now imagine your passwords are tucked, snug and secure, in their new hiding places. Be vigilant in keeping your hiding places secure and safe from prying eyes. Remember, in some circumstances, your passwords are your only defense against malicious pranksters or criminal hackers.