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One Step Ahead:How Are You Remembering Your Passwords?

March 29, 2011, Volume 57, No. 27

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

How Are You Remembering Your Passwords?

Remember when you only had one or two passwords to remember?  Nowadays, it seems we are asked to create new passwords almost every day. What is your strategy for remembering all of them? 

Here are Some Bad Strategies: 

• Using the same password for everything.  This makes passwords easier to remember, but it is a very dangerous practice.  If your password to even one website is compromised, that could expose you (and your wallet) to fraudulent financial transactions loss of privacy, and sometimes even put your physical safety at risk.

• Writing your passwords down so you can find them. Far too many people are still in the habit of writing down passwords and posting them to computers, bulletin boards and other areas near their computer without considering that these locations are easily-viewable to many people. 

Here are Some Good Strategies:

Use a secure online “vault” to store your passwords—one that unlocks with essentially a “master” password. See One Step Ahead tip “Passwords, Passwords, Everywhere,” www.upenn.edu/computing/security/footprints/display_tip.php?footprint_id=74

• Think in terms of password categories: Work—PennKey. Make sure you have one strong password for your PennKey password that you use nowhere else. This is essential to protect the security and integrity of systems and data that you have been entrusted with. 

WorkOther than PennKey. Some systems at Penn ask for passwords that are not based on PennKey. Make sure here too that the password is strong and not used in any other program or situation.

Personal—Important. For your life outside of Penn, consider creating one or two long and complex passwords for your most sensitive systems, such as online banking and other financial systems or home or car alarm systems.

PersonalE-Commerce. Select another password or two for the category that may be high in volume and backed by legally-required protections. You may be using dozens or hundreds of websites to shop and when you use your credit card, federal law protects you against significant liability if that card is lost or stolen and you report it to your credit card company promptly. Do your best to shop only on safe sites —looking for seals of approval from BBB Online, Verisign, and other trusted certificate programs.


For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/



Almanac - March 29, 2011, Volume 57, No. 27