Tips for managing online passwords

Monday, 12 November, 2018

It’s fair to say passwords have become something of a hindrance to online browsing these days.

Cybercrime has driven website administrators to impose increasingly draconian requirements for identifying ourselves as legitimate account holders.

Future generations will probably find it astonishing that we were expected to remember dozens of unique passwords for individual websites and apps.

They’ll be agog that we couldn’t transfer money between bank accounts without requesting time-limited authorisation codes, or remembering a variety of passwords and PIN codes.

And the concept that every website needed a varying number (and combination) of letters, numbers, uppercase characters and symbols will have them rolling in the aisles.

Yet until biometric identification ensures only legitimate individuals are able to access particular devices, the current situation seems set to continue.

After all, staying logged into online accounts is only advisable if you’re completely confident nobody else will ever access or use your devices – including thieves.

Pass’ and move

Fortunately, there are ways to ensure you’re never again left staring at a message saying “you have entered three incorrect attempts. Please wait five minutes to try again.”

These are our tips for managing online passwords:

Adopt variations on a theme. Never use the same login credentials across multiple websites, since a single compromised database could allow a criminal to run amok.

However, there’s nothing wrong with using variations of a core phrase or character string, providing it’s something a crook would never guess – like your first car’s registration plate.

A number or symbol before or after this core string could create numerous variations, which will be easier to remember (or guess) than totally different passwords for every website.

Write them down in an offline location. If a criminal manages to access your device, finding a text document called Passwords gives them the keys to the kingdom.

It’s far safer to write every password down in an alphabetical list in a notepad, kept beside your desktop computer or in a laptop bag.

It’s advisable to use slight abbreviations just in case the list is lost or stolen – this policy also stands you in good stead for managing online passwords in bookmarks or Favourites lists…

Add password abbreviations to your bookmarks. Let’s assume one of your preferred passwords is a variation on WonderWoman.

When populating a bookmarks list, you could add the letters WW after the website description or name – you’ll know what it stands for, but a criminal wouldn’t.

If you need to add numbers or symbols to meet a particular website’s registration criteria, your reminder could become WW1, WW#, etc.

Use an online password utility. This avoids the tyranny of constantly having to remember and type in passwords and PIN codes when accessing websites.

KeePass enables you to upload an encrypted list of passwords. Providing you remember your KeePass login credentials, everything else can be stored in a single list.

LastPass generates and stores passwords for you, managing online passwords by logging you in automatically when you access saved sites through LastPass’s homepage or app.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!