Accounts of security breaches at retailers and other businesses have become an ongoing saga. In a recent installment, Zappos.com said in January that hackers had tapped its database of more than 24 million users. Customers’ credit card information remained safe, but e-mail and billing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords may have been exposed.
That’s why it’s important to use a variety of passwords among Web sites. Zappos customer Alison McReynolds, for example, rests easier because she has unique passwords for online accounts that contain her most-sensitive data. A hacker who decoded her Zappos password wouldn’t be able to use the same one to access her e-mail—the most important type of account to protect because confirmations of your online activity tend to land there, says Adam Levin, chairman of Identity Theft 911.
Strong passwords guard against attacks. A random mix of numbers, symbols, and uppercase and lowercase letters is hard to crack but difficult to remember. You may more easily recall the first letters of a string of unrelated words, including a couple of numbers or symbols—but avoid anything obvious, such as your birthday or a pet’s name. Don’t store passwords in your e-mail in-box or on a piece of paper. Instead, use a hyper-secure program, such as www.keepass.info, www.clipperz.com or www.passwordsafe.com.