Updated 01/16/2013 06:57 PM
Experts warn online passwords more vulnerable than ever
Just how secure are your online passwords? You may believe that you've set up complicated passwords for each of your online accounts, but experts warn they probably are not complex enough to keep hackers at bay. Our Candace Hopkins has simple tips to keep your information secure.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
UNITED STATES -- Computers and smart phones have simplified every day activities like banking, shopping and communicating with friends. But when these functions moved online, users were forced to create dozens of accounts, each guarded with a password.
"You've got your email. I do web development, so there's servers and publishing software and things like that to log into, so there was a ton of different sites," said Syracuse University senior Andrew Bauer.
But experts say the average person can only remember about five passwords, meaning some get used for several different accounts.
"I try to switch them up, use similar names, but switching up the characters, using dollar signs or asterisks or capital letter here, lower case the next and switching it up," said Syracuse University junior Anthony Dann.
That's a common practice. But experts warn those variations are not enough. That's because most passwords can be hacked by computer programs in just minutes.
"Even combinations of like two dictionary words together is easily hackable, as is replacing a dictionary word with typical characters like you might replace an ‘a’ with an @ symbol or an ‘e’ with a ‘3.’ Those are things most hackers have caught on to and makes your password easy to break," said SU School of Information Studies Adjunct Professor Michael Fudge.
The best way he says to strengthen your password is by adding length to it, which can be done by placing a number sequence at the end. And if you can't remember such complicated passwords, there are websites called password database managers that can do that for you. You simply set up a master password and the program creates and stores passwords for all of your other log-ins.
"You don't have to remember any of the other passwords, when you go to a site login box, you tell the password manager to initiate a log-in for you. Many of the passwords I use on all my sites, I don't even know them, I know they're long and complicated and hard to guess and different from all the other sites," said Fudge.
And experts say don't worry, those password database managers have the strongest security possible in place. Many password database manager sites charge a monthly fee, but there is at least one you can download for free.
Click here to access LastPass' website, which offers a basic version of the service for free.