Are your passwords out of control? There’s an app for that

Posted at 5:22 PM, Jul 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-14 17:22:10-04

EBay is the latest in a growing list of companies whose data has been hacked. Last year, one in seven of us were notified that our personal data had been breached, according to a Consumer Reports’ survey. That’s a 56 percent increase over the year before. Consumer Reports has tested ways to help you keep your private info private.

Cyber thieves are always looking for new ways to steal your personal data. One of the best ways to protect yourself online is using strong passwords. But who can remember all those passwords?

Like many people, Virginia Doetsch can’t.

“Between my home and my office, I probably have 15 to 20 different passwords that I have to remember. And they change almost quarterly now. Sometimes I almost need passwords for my passwords,” says Virginia Doetsch.

One solution — password managers. Consumer Reports’ Dean Gallea tested one called LastPass that keeps all your passwords in one place and says it’s a good option.

“LastPass saves your login ID and password for websites you’ve told it to. And the next time you go to that website, it fills it in for you,” says Dean Gallea.

But isn’t LastPass also vulnerable to hackers?

“LastPass stores your personal information in its secure online vault, and any communications between that vault and your computer are encrypted so that it makes it effectively unreadable, even to a hacker,” says Dean Gallea.

You can download the service for free for use on your computer, or if you want the $12-dollar a year premium service, you’ll get access to LastPass on all your mobile devices.

But some people, like Virginia, are too afraid to put their passwords in the hands of someone else.

Another option — create easy-to-remember, hard-to-crack passwords yourself.

“A more secure password has at least nine characters and has a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. You can use a core password that’s easy to remember and then put characters ahead of it and after it to vary it for different websites,” says Gallea.

Even after all the recent news on cyber security, the easy-to-guess password 1-2-3-4-5-6 is still the number one choice, according to the password management company SplashData. Consumer Reports says also avoid ordinary dictionary words, which hackers can easily crack using software that tries out just about every word there is.