It’s a good idea to be a little paranoid about password theft, and there are several ways to strengthen your defenses.
A PASSWORD MANAGER? MAYBE
Password-protection software lets you store all your usernames and passwords in one place. Some programs will even create strong passwords for you and automatically log you in to sites as long as you provide one master password. LastPass, SplashData and AgileBits offer password management software for Windows, Macs and mobile devices. But consider yourself warned: Mr. Kocher said he did not use the software because even with encryption, it still lived on the computer itself. “If someone steals my computer, I’ve lost my passwords.” Mr. Grossman said he did not trust the software because he didn’t write it. Indeed, at a security conference in Amsterdam earlier this year, hackers demonstrated how easily the cryptography used by many popular mobile password managers could be cracked.
IGNORE SECURITY QUESTIONS
There is a limited set of answers to questions like “What is your favorite color?” and most answers to questions like “What middle school did you attend?” can be found on the Internet. Hackers use that information to reset your password and take control of your account. Earlier this year, a hacker claimed he was able to crack into Mitt Romney’s Hotmail and Dropbox accounts using the name of his favorite pet. A better approach would be to enter a password hint that has nothing to do with the question itself. For example, if the security question asks for the name of the hospital in which you were born, your answer might be: “Your favorite song lyric.”