Cyber security is serious business, and shouldn’t only be observed during Cyber Security Awareness Month, which is in October. Online security is important every month in today’s connected world. Here are some statistics to scare you a little:

  • According to McAfee/NCSA, 78% of Americans’ computers are not fully protected from hackers and cyber criminals.
  • According to McAfee/NCSA, 64% of Americans cannot determine whether a Web site is safe before visiting it.

With the increasing use of the Internet for financial transactions and shopping, there has been a surge in the number of private passwords and personal information ending up in the hands of online criminals. Once obtained, these cyber criminals can steal money, files on your hard drive and even whole identities. The easiest defense against such attempts is a secure password. Here are six tips to keep in mind when crafting a formidable password:

  1. Avoid the obvious. You probably won’t forget your own birthday, but resist the urge to make it your password.
  2. Avoid dictionary words. Software that guesses passwords based on standard language, including words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and substitutions (like using a 3 instead of the letter e) is all too easy to find. Mix up your words, or use randomly generated strings of letters and numbers if you have a good memory.
  3. Longer is better. The longer the password the harder it is to crack. Use a password with at least 8-14 characters.
  4. Use the entire keyboard. Combine numbers, letters (upper and lower case), and symbols to create a unique, secure password.
  5. Be wary of public computers. Entering your password into a random computer is kind of like giving your social security card to a stranger on the street: fun at first but it might have long lasting consequences. Be careful from where you log into your various online accounts.
  6. Keep an eye on your accounts. You keep an eye on your credit card statements, right? The same theory applies for your other online accounts. Check them from time to time for suspicious activity. If you see anything out of the ordinary change your password and alert your account provider.

The key to a good password is that it be both memorable and difficult to guess. The most cryptic and random password isn’t secure at all when it is written on a Post-It under your keyboard (yeah, we all know that’s where you keep your passwords).

To learn more about other Internet safety tips and resources, including how to protect your family online, how to avoid phishing scams and other online threats please visit You’ll also find information about a variety of tools and software that can help keep your files, passwords, and identify safe and sound.