Strong Passwords & Security Questions

User typing on keyboard“Password,” “qwerty,” and “123456” topped CNET’s list of worst passwords in 20141. Did you pick one of these as your password in the past year? Or do you avoid logging in to your online accounts because it would mean resetting your login with security questions you can never remember? If you answered “yes” to either question, then we strongly encourage you to read on. 

We all realize, the purpose of passwords and security questions are to protect our accounts from being accessed by a hacker or malicious software.  However, setting up and keeping track of the many login ids, passwords and security question answers can be a chore.  Here are a few tips that can help you to  create strong passwords and security questions and answers that are memorable  for you and uncrackable for anyone else.  

Passwords Tips:

  • The longer it is, the better the password is.  Longer passwords are harder to crack.  The character minimum is typically 6 or 8, but studies show that passwords with 10 or 11 characters are more effective.
  • Include characters that are not numbers or letters. Mix in symbols and punctuation such as “!, #, $, ?, +” to make your password stronger and harder to guess. Choose characters that can be found on your keyboard so as not to make it too complicated for you to use.
  • Create fancy passwords from a phrase you would remember. Come up with a phrase that only you would remember, such as “I went to King Elementary.” Then tweak it using abbreviations, non-alphabetical characters, a combination of upper and lower case letters, and misspelling it to make your password into “Iw3nt2K1ngEl3m” or simply “K1ngEl3m3nt@ry”.

Next to a strong password, the next best thing to protect your online account is your security questions. From the list of security questions, pick questions you can create answers tough enough to keep unwanted eyes locked out, but would not leave you scratching your head trying to remember how you answered it.  No, the technique to create uncrackable phrases using fancy character combinations and symbols wouldn’t apply here.  

Security Question & Answer Tips:

  • Choose questions that you could answer immediately after you read it. If you to hesitate when try to think of an answer, then do not use it.
  • Choose questions that you would remember 5 years later. 
  • Refrain from choosing questions that might change over time.  Your favorite author might change a year from now, whereas questions such as “what’s your mother’s mother’s first name?” or “What month was your oldest sibling born?” will not change.
  • Do not choose questions with answers that can be found on your social media posts such as “what is your pet’s name?”
  • Use simple one-word answers or two-word answers at the most.  Should you need to access your account by answering your security questions, it would be much easier to remember “Johnson” as your favorite elementary school teacher, than “Mrs. Johnson,” “Ms. Johnson,” or “Angela Johnson.” Be conscientious of spacing when you use two word answers.  For instance, if you set your answer to be “Pearl City” as your father’s hometown, the system will not accept “PearlCity.” The answer must be entered exactly as it was when you originally set up the question.   
  • Read security questions carefully. As more information becomes available online and hackers become more sophisticated, so to, do the security questions that are used to verify your identity.  The basic, “What is your mother’s maiden name?” my no longer be a security question in use, instead a variation like “What is your mother’s mother’s name?” may be asked.


You may feel certain about the security questions and answers you chose, but check it again to ensure you know the answer. You may find a typo in your answer or you may look at it again and decide you want to use something different.   
 
Set up your online accounts to be you-ser friendly without compromising your security. Use passwords and security answers that trigger something personal to you, and no one else but you, and you won’t be pulling your hair out the next time you log in.   

FHB Online customers can check their security questions and answers by logging in to their account, clicking on Customer Service, and then clicking on Change your SiteSecure Preferences.


1http://www.cnet.com/news/worst-passwords-of-2014-are-just-as-awful-as-you-can-imagine/

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