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AARP Bulletin

Scam Alert

Create Hack-Proof Passwords to Avoid Cyberattacks

4 tips and strategies for keeping your online data secure

2. Phrase maze

Want to use something really unbreakable, like the pros do? A password such as 63YrS@n%styll&LUVN^Lfe! is long and strong. But memorable? It can be, if you base it on a phrase that you privately choose, such as "63 years and still loving life!"

The key is to stick to a formula — note the different patterns of upper- and lowercase letters in successive words — and to include purposeful misspellings and random characters that break up words.

3. Safe storage

A password cheat sheet is fine, as long as it's not stored on your computer or smartphone; if your device is infected with malware, you're doomed. A pen-and-paper reminder, kept in a safe place, is better. Ideally it will consist of hints rather than actual passwords.

4. Password manager

This software stores all your user names and passwords in one encrypted database. You provide one master password to open the manager; some versions automatically log you in to websites. Products include LastPass, SplashID Safe and 1Password for PCs, Macs and mobile devices.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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