It’s time! Change that password!

Be honest… is your password still the name of your high school crush? If you’re like most of us you still use a password from your dial-up modem days, especially for sites like Amazon where you’ve been shopping for a long time.

It’s a pain to change your password and it’s a pain to remember a new one. We all understand. But there are a lot of hackers out there and if they can access your facebook settings, your amazon account, and a little freely-available information, they can take control of your life, ruin relationships with your friends, trash your finances and make your miserable. Isn’t that worth a little inconvenience now and then?

Take the opportunity every spring to change your passwords. Start with your PC, smartphone or tablet if you password protect those. (You probably should.) Change the access code to your router — how long have you been using “tigersbball” as your passphrase? How many now ex-friends have you given it to?

Change your online banking password and the passwords to your e-mail accounts once a year. Go to your frequently used shopping sites and change them there too. Don’t worry about the sites you rarely go to — if your password is hacked there then at least it won’t work at one of the main shopping sites.

Choosing a password is always the hardest part. If you are forced to change passwords at work every three months you know that fatigue sets in and you end up choosing dumb passwords just so you remember them.

Typically, you’re encouraged to choose a password with random letters, numbers and punctuation. That can be hard to remember. You’re just as well off with a 20-letter phrase with spaces. It takes just as long or longer for a password cracker to find 3gwskvi43## as it does to find Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though. (Don’t actually use famous poetry or anything that could be guessed using a google search of the first two words. That’s just dumb.)

Try to come up with a password scheme that makes sense to you. Pick a book at random (you still have physical books, right?) and go to a page number that makes sense. Pick the first four words on the page. Or, ask your child to tell you about his or her day, and choose a string of words they say.

No matter what you do, take a moment to change your passwords, try to use ones that are hard to guess, and make sure your most important passwords, like your e-mail and financial passwords, are different from the rest.