Property Management Tips: Did You Celebrate Change Your Password Day?

You may not have been one of the 24 million Zappo’s customers whose records were compromised in January when hackers chopped into the online giant’s customer base, but the incident should serve as another wake-up call that we’re just one insecure password away from big trouble.

Gizmodo, a website devoted to gadget news and digital culture, is attempted to splash a little water on our faces when it declared February 1 as “Change Your Password Day.” A quick search of the national news websites showed that this didn’t get a thumbs-up by the Obama Administration as a national holiday, but taking a moment to reflect on your ability to create a hack-proof password is not a bad idea.

Apartment property owners and managers have a great deal at stake today if the wrong fingers tap their way into important documents. Web-based property management software systems are great tools for allowing company executives and on-site staff quick access to all kinds of critical data and documents. And because more and more of our daily business activities are in password-driven web-based solutions, a property’s business is potentially open to unwelcome eyes.

Hackers use fast computers and high-speed networks that can randomly produce thousands of passwords in minutes to compromise accounts. In order to protect your information – whether it’s personal e-mail or corporate records – you simply have to outguess the hacker when creating a password.

A recent New York Times article revealed that people tend to create easy-to-remember – and sometimes obvious – passwords that make fast work for hackers. Using your favorite sport or even the obvious may sound like a good idea, but hackers are already wise. Popular passwords these days are “123456” and “12345”, according to Imperva, a database and application security provider. Among others are “monkey”, “rockyou”, “password”, “princess”, “abc123” and, yes, “soccer.”

Any of these passwords ring a bell? If so, it’s time for a change.

There are many schools of thought on secure passwords, as evidence from recent suggestions and comments on Apartment Therapy. Most agree that the more you are able to create multiple confusing passwords that are easy to remember, the better you’ll be. Limiting yourself to one or two passwords for everything generally isn’t a good idea, because once a hacker discovers it, then all your records could be potentially compromised. Changing your password frequently is another good practice.

If you can’t possibly remember all those passwords, there are personal password management software available to help you keep track. But you’ll need a good password to get into those, and keep in mind, those sites can be compromised. Sounds easy, right?

Here are four ideas for creating a more secure password. These are only tips and have not been proven to be failsafe. The idea is to stimulate your own inner personal password security system to create a usable, hack-free password that could keep your work and personal accounts secure and free from unwanted visitors.

Mix Letters, Numbers, and Symbols

Some websites ask for passwords with a minimum number of characters with at least one number and a symbol. An argument can be made that putting an exclamation point and number with a word doesn’t provide enough security. But using multiple letters, numbers, and symbols to create a password is an option. A great example comes from Dinah Shore, a TV talk show host in the 1970s, who loved to play tennis. So her personal license plate was “10SNE1.”

Size Does Matter

Sorry, Yoda, but size does matter when creating passwords. Looooooooong passwords can be difficult to crack, suggest some. A random string of words or repeating the same letter multiple times can be used. A friend once told me he used a simple word like “cat” but strung out the “a”s to throw the dogs off the scent. It was something like 13 “a”s. I asked him why 13 and he said he had as many cats. Sounds like he had more than just password problems. And don’t tell people your passwords!

Avoid Using Significant Dates

You see this in email addresses all the time. Ever get an e-mail from Larry4157 and you already had a pretty good idea that he’s in his mid-50s? He probably just told you from his e-mail address that he was born on April Fool’s Day in 1957. Chances are, he’s using that number combination in a password. That just gives a hacker one more clue to guessing ol’ Larry’s password. A real fool, that Larry.

Be Random

One poster suggests using the longest string of pseudo-random words that you can remember. Pick several words or (series of numbers will work) and use them in random combinations. The length and randomness will provide a double-secure system against password hackers. So, a password like “thelengthandrandomness” would be something like “lengththerandomnessand”. But don’t use that password!

A good password is one that’s like finding a needle in a haystack for a hacker, compared to, say, a monkey. Are your passwords secure? “Change Your Password Day” is a great reminder to shore up security to your files and e-mail.


Contributor, Property Management Insider

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Michael Cunningham is Content Marketing Manager at ProofHQ, and the former Managing Editor of PropertyManagementInsider.com. He worked as a social media manager for RealPage, Inc., a provider of on-demand software solutions that integrate and streamline single-family and a wide variety of multifamily rental property management business functions. He is responsible for promoting the company through various media channels, including editorial, print and online advertising, and social media. Michael received his education at Indiana University where he majored in English.

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