Be Safe Online! Part 2: More Password Tips

Yeah, I had too much to say about this, I know. But I’d like to help others avoid the stress and work involved when you realize your online life has been compromised, so here are the rest of my Online Password Tips for Your Safety:

~~Follow the experts’ advice and make your passwords out of a combination of upper-case letters, lower-case letters, and numbers. This is, let me tell you, a total pain, requiring way too much thought and multiple cheat sheets, but you’ve gotta do it. Trust me.


~~If you even suspect someone might have gotten access to an account or a password, get in there and change it immediately.


~~And change all your passwords every once in a while, just to be safe.


Do I do all of this? No, I do not: see Wednesday’s post, re: MySpace. But I’m getting better. When I realized my iPod was stolen and that a savvy thief could figure out how to gain access to a list of passwords I couldn’t change until I got home (we were on the road), the first thing I did was to call my credit card company and talk to A Real Live Person and explain what had happened. I know most people grouse about their card companies, but I love mine and have had excellent service. The woman I talked to put a flag on the account–she didn’t cancel it because we had to have use of the card–and she read back over all the recent charges so I could confirm them, and then she said they would contact me if they noticed any suspicious activity, meaning anything out of my ordinary habits. They can track that, scarily enough, because I’ve been with them for almost 30 years and, apparently, I’m pathetically predictable. I suspect they know more about me than my mother did.

Creating random passwords is tough; the words you think of are words you know. You could create a code, or you could write individual letters on cards and shuffle them and draw 10, writing them down in order, making some capital and some not, adding in some numbers drawn randomly from other cards.


This all makes my head hurt just thinking about it. What I do is make up nonsense words and use my own idiosyncratic system of adding capital letters. I violate security by using a couple number sequences that I can remember–they have nothing to do with my actual life, so no one else would guess them, but they’re numbers I’ve memorized because, really, a person can keep track of only so much. And, as I may have mentioned a time or two in the past, my memory has never been a thing of beauty and certainly isn’t getting any better.


Then, when I run out of steam for making up words, I look around at the piles and stacks of stuff on my desk and pick out parts of things. Because I do a lot of searching for stuff for my editors, I have scraps of paper and files with lots of names on them, and I amuse myself by picking out the strangest names and scrambling those. Or maybe half a sentence is peeking out from under a file folder, and I rearrange the words and letters in it. Oh, it’s endlessly entertaining and so very much fun!


Snort. I’m lying. Did I mention this is a total pain? Plus thinking about security is never much fun, imagining all the ways someone else might try to take your stuff, even if “taking your stuff” means just highjacking your Pinterest account (it’s happened to me) or your Facebook account (ditto). So learn from my irritating experiences and do everything you can to keep yourself–and your stuff–safe out there.


Apter_Pulse_CoverAnd on a much less stressful note, you can check out what other creative artists are thinking about in Seth Apter’s The Pulse of Mixed Media: Secrets and Passions of 100 Artists Revealed.


Ricë is the author of Living the Creative LifeCreative Time and Spaceand Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.



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