We all hate passwords, but they’re still an essential part of keep your online info safe. Here’s why we hate them–and what we can do about it.
Admit it: You use the same password on too many sites. Admit this, too: You’re annoyed when sites ask for passwords that include not only letters and numbers but symbols and capital letters, too.
And when you can’t remember a password and you’re trying to quickly log into a site? You’re ready to toss your laptop across the room.
We all love to hate passwords. They’re hard to remember, annoying to type, and increasingly difficult to create when sites ask for ever more obscure combinations of letters, symbols, numbers, and capitalization.
But passwords are also a necessary tool. Despite how cumbersome they can be, they protect our devices and websites, helping to keep cybercriminals from logging onto our laptops or accessing our online bank accounts and credit card portals.
So why do we hate passwords? And how can we make using passwords less annoying and more difficult for cyber criminals to crack? Here are some tips.
Why we hate them: We have too many
The big problem with passwords might be that we have too many. NordPass estimated in 2023 that the average person had from 70 to 80 passwords. That’s a lot of passwords to juggle.
NordPass also reported that people spend an average of seven to 12 hours every year trying to remember these passwords as they navigate the Internet.
It’s not surprising, then, that they found that 56% of U.S. adults consider managing their passwords to be a challenge.
Here’s another interesting fact from NordPass: 60% of U.S. adults surveyed by the company say that losing a password without an option to reset it gives them a similar feeling to being laid off from their jobs, becoming ill, or suffering a physical injury.
With such complicated emotions surrounding them, and such stress involved in remembering and creating them, is it any wonder that so many of us hate passwords?
They can be too complicated, too
Another gripe you might have with passwords? An increasing number of sites are asking for especially complicated ones.
A site might require that your password contain a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters in addition to at least one number and one special symbol, such as a question mark or exclamation point. Creating such complicated passwords can be a pain. And remembering them can be a challenge.
This doesn’t mean that everyone is savvy when creating passwords. In fact, mobile security firm Lookout last year published its list of the 20 most common passwords found for sale on the dark web. And what did the firm find? The password “123456” led the list, followed by “123456789.” Those aren’t exactly difficult passes to crack.
Here is the complete list of Lookout’s 20 passwords as published last year by Reader’s Digest:
As you can see, computer users still aren’t above using “password” as their password. And while “Iloveyou” might be a sweet sentiment, it’s not a good choice for a password.
But even if you hate them, strong passwords are essential
Even if you hate passwords, it’s important to create strong ones to prevent cybercriminals from accessing sites such as your online bank account or credit card portals. Consider your password as your first line of defense against cyber criminals.
But what makes for a strong password? Unfortunately, the more complex a password is, the more difficult it is for cyber criminals to crack. This means that you should indeed create passwords with symbols, numbers and uppercase and lowercase numbers, even if these are difficult to remember.
Don’t use simple passwords such as the name of the street on which you live, the name of your favorite sports team, your name followed by your birthdate or your spouse’s first and last name. And don’t use the same password across several sites. If you do, a cyber criminal only has to crack one password to access several of your sites.
Make your life easier: It’s time for a password manager
But how do you remember so many complex passwords? You don’t. Instead, invest in a password manager and memorize just one password.
A password manager is a software application that stores and manages your password information. These managers can also generate complex passwords for your sites and then store them in an encrypted database. You can only access this database by entering the right password.
This means that you only need to memorize the one password that unlocks your password vault. Once you are inside the vault, you can access whatever password you need to log onto a site.
You can choose from two types of password managers: A local password manager stores your password vault on a single device, such as your laptop or phone. The second type of password manager stores it in the cloud, so that you can access it from any device.
The benefit of a local password manager is that it’s more difficult for cyber criminals to crack. Because your password manager is stored on a device that you control, you can more easily keep it away from cybercriminals.
The downside of a local manager is that if you lose the device on which your vault is stored, you’ll lose access to your collection of passwords. With a password manager in the cloud, you can access your password vault from anywhere, as long as you have an Internet connection and you remember your vault’s password. Cloud-based password managers, though, aren’t quite as secure as ones that you store on your own devices. The risk might be small, but a skilledcyber criminal might be able to breach it.
While a password manager makes it easier to access your passwords, it’s not failproof. If a skilled cyber criminal cracks your password vault’s main password, they break into your vault and nab your saved passwords, which the criminal can then use to access your bank or credit card accounts. The scammer might even sell your password on the dark web.
You can find password managers online. Some offer a basic version for free. Free versions usually offer all the services you need. But if you want more powerful password protection, you can invest in a premium plan. When you pay for an advanced version of a password manager, you’ll get extra file storage, the ability to access your password vault from multiple devices and the ability to add family members to your account.
Author: Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter is a freelance writer who covers tech, finance, and real estate. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Fox Business.