Spring Cleaning Your Passwords
It’s 2015, and it’s fair to say that we live online as much as we live in our house or apartment. That’s why it’s just as important to spring clean our digital abode as our physical one.
But where to begin? It can seem just as daunting as spring cleaning your house. I just read an article on the wonderful Houzz web site suggesting that you choose your spring cleaning focus, rather than trying to do it all. In that spirit, I propose starting with the most important aspect of your digital life: your passwords.
Your passwords are the keys to sites and apps you use every day, most of which contain your most important personal information. And by starting here, you’ll come across more digital information that you can declutter, scrub down and reorganize.
Here’s a step-by-step plan that will help you get this spring cleaning done quickly and let you move on to your home.
Organization experts say the first step is to lay out your stuff so you know what you have and determine what you should keep and toss.
For your passwords, gather them from all of the places you currently store them. Find any passwords written down on paper, in electronic files, those stored on your mobile devices and other locations. Write down any passwords you’ve memorized.
If you let your browser remember them (or are not sure if you do), it’s time to open your browser list and see what’s on there. Here are links to the help pages for each major browser that walks you through how to do it for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari.
Now that you have all your passwords in front of you, it’s time to go through and clean them up.
Are there duplicates for different sites? Do they match any of the most common passwords that exist? These should be changed so you have unique passwords for each site. A password generator is a good tool to use, as it automatically creates strong passwords that are difficult to crack.
Do you have passwords for any websites that you can’t remember visiting lately or don’t plan to visit again? If there are, it’s a good idea to go to them, log in and delete your account. Website hacks are now a fact of life, so the fewer places you have accounts, the less the chance your information will be compromised, especially if it’s a site you don’t use.
If you had to pull stored passwords from multiple different locations at the beginning of this process, it’s time to think about putting them in one place – a place that is safe, secure, and easy to use.
A good password manager is the best place for many reasons:
- It stores your passwords with bank-grade security that has never been cracked.
- It allows you have strong unique passwords for each web site and only have to go to one place to change any of them.
- It auto-fills your usernames and passwords on most of the websites you visit so you never have to remember them or click on that “forget password” link.
- It automatically imports usernames and passwords from any of the browsers you use.
A password manager also allows you to store any personal information like bank account information, credit card details, unique documents or private notes, taking your spring cleaning efforts even further.
But perhaps the greatest benefit of using a password manager to declutter, scrub down and organize your passwords? Next time spring cleaning season rolls around, you’ll realize how much a password manager has simplified your digital life, leaving more time to refresh and refocus other areas of your life.