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How strong are your passwords?

Think malware is just something annoying, but not costly?

A study out today from Consumer Reports calculates Americans have lost $4.5 billion over the past two years, including replacing more than two million computers, because of malicious programs. (They're livestreaming an event today at 12:30 p.m. to talk about the report)

Something as simple as a better password can help.

I'm the first to admit that I fail at the password protection test. Unlike my super techie friends, my passwords are pretty lame because of my fear of forgetting them.

Bridget and I have realized that it would be easy for the two of us to figure each other's passwords out -- and if that's the case, it's probably not that hard for someone else to do that, too.

This week we're changing that. We're taking control of our passwords and creating a system that makes it easy for us to remember them, but really difficult for others to figure out.

I've probably missed the window for calling this spring cleaning, so maybe think of this as a May e-Cleaning.

To avoid the disaster of forgetting all these passwords once you've created them, come up with a system. Find an odd combination of numbers and or symbols. Don't use your birthdate, or your kid's birthdates, or an anniversary. If you can't deal with a random number combination you make up and memorize, use something like your dog's birthdate, your best friend's birthday -- combinations others can't figure out.

Yes, this is a pain. I've already created several passwords that I've forgotten, but it's just the hassle of clicking "forget password" and waiting for the email to come. This helps you remember your password, and, it's worth it.

Consumer Reports recommends inserting a random symbol into a password as well. To make it easier to remember, find one you like and use the same one each time.

Now that you've gone through the trouble of creating better passwords, be aware of phishing scams that try to steal your login data. If you click on a link that someone's shared with you, and it asks for your user name and password, stop and think before you fill it in: Is this legitimate? If the URL looks complicated for a sign in page, it should raise a red flag.

Do you have a system for managing your passwords?

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Hey Niala, nice article. I use my favorite bible verses for my passwords (for example 1John5:13 which contains numbers, capitalized & lowercase, and even a symbol). What do you think about that?

Hi Jose - I think that's a great idea, as long as it's not an easy one, like John3:16.

I use Mitto (http://mitto.com) to manage my passwords. They offer a password generator as well so I can have good passwords for all of my sites.

Mitto is free, safe, and easy to use. You can see what others are saying at http://mitto.com/reviews

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