Picture of Beth Martin

Take a moment to think about how many digital accounts you have. Email. Social media. Video-streaming. Retail stores. Food-delivery services. Utilities. Car insurance. Medical records. Bank accounts. The list could go on and on.

These accounts are gateways to information about your identity, and they usually are protected with only a handful of characters—your passwords. It’s up to you to make sure those passwords keep you as safe as possible. 

Here’s some advice to get you started:

  • Don't re-use passwords.
    Could a hacker get to your pizza-ordering account and your bank account with the same password? Different passwords can stop someone from guessing correctly and accessing several of your accounts.

  • Don’t use obvious terms.
    Using your kid’s birthday or pet’s name as your password? Remember, when your password is something well-known, or easily discovered on social media, a hacker is much closer to accessing your accounts.

  • Change your passwords often.
    The longer you use the same password, the more time a hacker has to figure it out. Most experts recommend changing your passwords every three to six months. While that may seem daunting, it’s easier than repairing identity theft. And, of course, you should always change your password when a company has any sort of compromise.

  • Symbols and numbers can help.
    Hackers have a number of tools, including dictionary programs that help them identify common words. Use symbols and numbers to make it more difficult. For example, SoToughToCrack is easier to uncover than $0_T0ug#_2_Cr@ck.

  • Don’t rely on your fingerprint.
    Signing in to an account with your fingerprint is convenient, but it usually can’t keep you safe if your password is weak. In most cases, a hacker doesn’t need your fingerprint if he has your password. But biometrics, like your fingerprint or eye scans, can be very helpful if they are part of multi-factor authorization (proving your identity in more than one way before you have access).

  • Go long.
    Different systems have different criteria for password creation. But ideally, you should choose longer passwords. The longer the password, the more difficult it will be to crack.

  • Keep your passwords secure.
    In an ideal world, you’d be able to remember all of these unique and constantly updating credentials off the top of your head. But that’s not exactly realistic. If you do keep track of your passwords, make sure you store them in a secure place. Never ask websites to remember your password or store them in online locations that could also be hacked.
While there are no guarantees, and no account is 100-percent safe from possible attack, having a strong password is a critical defense. In fact, most experts will tell you it takes about two minutes to crack a nine-character, all-text password—but two centuries to solve a 12-character password that includes special characters.

Automated alerts add extra protection

Use text and email alerts to know when something unusual happens with your account.

As a Senior Information Security Analyst at Old National Bank, Beth works to protect the bank and its clients from cyber risks.

This content is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice or indicate the suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances. You are encouraged to consult with a qualified legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professional based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.