password There are already too many passwords in your life, but you’ve got to sigh and get over it. You’re going to have to pick better passwords and you’re going to have to remember them. The next generation of devices and web services, arriving within the next six months, will delight you and astonish you and change your life and your business – and all of it is built on protecting your stuff with passwords.

In the next few months, you’ll have more ways than ever to have your world available on more than one computer. We’ll talk more about all this, but off the top of my head, there are huge changes coming in at least these areas:

  • Computers, especially notebooks and netbooks. You’ll be more likely to have more than one computer and you’ll want your files to be available on all of them.
  • Mail available from anywhere, on any computer
  • Pictures available from anywhere
  • Files and pictures shared with others
  • Social networking and meetings

All of that is done now, of course – you may be doing any or all of them yourself. But trust me, there are things coming that will make what’s available now look like the first tentative baby steps.

Every single bit of it is controlled by passwords. Your password is what stands between you and someone else getting into your account. At best, they’ll just read your mail. At worst, they’ll delete your photos and send your business documents to your competitors and make obscene calls to your mother and sell your stocks at a loss and ship stainless steel kitchen accessories to the Ukraine from your Amazon account.

Did you see what happened to Twitter last month? Somebody got a password to an employee’s account and got access to email, plus business documents stored online in Google Apps. According to the New York Times:

The hacker then sent documents about company plans and finances, confidential contracts, and job applicants to two tech news blogs, TechCrunch, in Silicon Valley, and Korben, in France. There was also personal information about Twitter employees including credit card numbers.

The hacker also broke into the e-mail account of the wife of Evan Williams, Twitter’s chief executive, and from there accessed several of Mr. Williams’ personal Internet accounts, including those at Amazon and PayPal . . .

Stories like this are not reasons to avoid online services! Your life is going to be built on them, soon. Hiding your head in the sand is simply not an option.

Instead, it’s time to step up a level. You’re not doing enough yet. You pick simple passwords, you use the same one everywhere, and you forget the ones that you don’t have to enter regularly. In a study last year, Sophos, a security firm, found that 40 percent of Internet users use the same password for every Web site they access.

I want you to start to develop a system for better passwords.

Take your usual password, capitalize the first letter, and add a number and a punctuation mark to it. If your usual password is a single word, that makes it significantly stronger.

Windows and many web services will let you have a space in your password! Use two words separated by a space. Capitalize each one.

Use a phrase as a password – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Or use the first letters of a phrase – “Ycagwyw”.

Develop a system to remember the passwords and make notes about what each one is for! That can be a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, or a program like eWallet or KeePass or Roboform.

And most importantly – get used to passwords. Your mail, your Google account, your Windows Live ID, Microsoft Online Services, Amazon, logging onto your computer, online banking, Facebook, all the rest – start using different passwords and keep track of them in an organized way!

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