Basics of Password Enhancements - dummies

By Ryan C. Williams

When you really want to keep your information secure, you can look into the following options to safeguard your passwords. The problem is that you can’t really force accounts to use these measures. If a provider offers these features, then by all means take advantage of them!

If the provider doesn’t give you these options, you can still use a good password and keep your information as secure as possible. But you might encourage the provider to add these services as soon as possible (or look for a different provider).

  • Two-factor authentication: This process may sound complicated, but two-factor authentication really helps keep your passwords private. Unfortunately, not all services require this feature. But Google does, so it’s a good example. When you create a Google account, you can specify a mobile phone number to receive a text message when you try to log in to the account from an unfamiliar computer or device.

    Google sends a text message to the number with a code, and you must enter that code to access the account. An intruder is less likely to have your password and access to your phone, so your information remains safe. If a service offers two-factor authentication, use it!

  • Passphrases: Just as hackers have to work a little harder to guess longer passwords, they have to work that much more with passphrases. You do have to spend a little more time typing “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” than you do “kZx43$,” but you do keep your account far more secure.

    Don’t use “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” as a passphrase unless you want your account hacked by those persons who took typing classes in the mid- to late 20th century.

  • Captcha: Never mind what captcha actually stands for — the effect is that you have to squint at a distorted picture of a series of characters and type those characters into a text field. This method prevents automated hacking attempts from gaining access to your account, presumably because only a human could discern what those characters actually are. Or they just frustrate you— one of the two.

  • VPN connection: No matter what security method you use, it’s always safer over a virtual private network (VPN). Most workplaces offer them, and you can buy commercial alternatives as well. These connections encrypt all traffic to and from your device, making it all the more safe for your use.