Be Safe Online! Part 1

In light of the burglary of our vehicle in which my iPod was taken, I spent most of a workday resetting passwords.

That’s every. single. online. password. OMG, is all I can say. I don’t know about y’all, but somehow, without my paying attention, I have accumulated dozens of these, for everything from The Big Stuff, like banking, to things I’m ashamed to own up to, like (eeeeek) an old MySpace account.


I don’t think most of us realize how many sites we’ve visited that required us to create passwords: from everything from passwords for ordering books and shoes and coffee to ones for starting a website or blog or Facebook page. At the end of a whole (mostly) day of creating new passwords (and deleting some accounts, ahem), I had to carry a cheatsheet with me even to access my iPhone. Good grief.


But the scary thing I learned during the process, as I posted on Facebook and talked to people about their own experiences, is that a large portion of people never really think about passwords and how they work and why they’re important. Many people told me they use the same three or four passwords for everything from banking to Twitter, and others admitted they haven’t changed any of their passwords in forEVER. And all I can say is, “People, PLEASE!” If this sounds even vaguely like your own online habits, I want you to go to your calendar right now and block off some time to do some major security housekeeping.


Now, I’m not an internet expert, nor am I a security guru, so there is surely way more expert advice available out there, and if security is a big concern for you, you need to do some research of your own. Of course, if security is a big concern of yours, I’m guessing you’re way, way ahead of me, anyway.


For everyone else, here are some basic password tips for what you need to think about:

~~When you create passwords, do NOT use your name, your grandkids’ names, your dearly departed hamster’s name, or ANY name that anyone else could figure out. Don’t use your birth date, and don’t use any other easily-guessed combination of numbers, like your wedding anniversary or the date of some big event. The very first thing to remember is that criminals don’t last long if they’re stupid, and the ones who succeed at crime are the smart ones. They know the tricks. If they want to hack into your bank account, they can start looking for clues somewhere else. Maybe they’ll start with clues on Facebook or Twitter or something you post on your blog. Maybe they have access to information on your driver’s license or one of your cancelled checks. Who knows? But if you use the same password for your bank account as you do for Facebook, and your FB password is the name of your dog, about whom you post all the time on your blog, well, guess what? You maybe mentioned that you had to go to The Evil Bank of Newport to straighten out some mistake, and now they’ve got enough information to get in there and start digging.

~~So: also don’t use the same password for more than one site. Create unique passwords, one for each place you need one. A pain? Yes. Worth the trouble? Absolutely.


Blogging for Creatives 160OK–I realize I’ve got kind of a lot to say about this, so come back on Friday for the rest of my suggestions. In the meantime, while you’re thinking about your online life, you might want to check out Blogging for Creatives: How Designers, Artists, Crafters and Writers Can Blog to Make Contacts, Win Business and Build Success, By Robin Houghton



Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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2 Responses to Be Safe Online! Part 1

  1. CarolineA says:

    It is possible to get those password vault programs, which work as long as you only use the one computer; its not so convenient if you have to use a different one. There really is no easy answer to this, beyond not giving out too many personal details on social networks and making sure you have a very strong firewall, and checking the computer for nasties regularly. I don’t keep my banking and other important passwords written down anywhere or saved in my browser; I’d rather get embarrassed and have to get it resent (which happens often!), and have now added my cell phone for verification on several websites. A couple of my banks use one time encryption codes as well.
    But I had my bank balance stolen when my cell phone provider had its data-base hacked; my only contribution to this was having purchased a new cell phone the week before and using plastic. So how can we win?

    • Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

      I have no idea: the more I think about it, the more overwhelming it is because there are people who spend every waking hour trying to figure out ways to hack into systems; they put in way more time and energy trying to take our stuff than we can spend trying to protect it. I just heaved a big sigh here, literally.