Before creating a password, use this checklist.

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Here are 5 key questions to ask yourself before creating a password online.

Facial recognition software, fingerprint authentication, and other technologies are emerging as new ways to protect your personal information, but the most widespread method continues to be the traditional, keyboard-entered, alpha-numeric password. Whether you’re opening a new account or changing your passwords, here are 5 key questions you should ask yourself before creating your new password.

1. Am I including identifiable information?

A password that includes your city of birth or wedding date in it may make account access easier for you, but it also may make it easier for hackers. With so much of our personal information publicly available online through social media posts, web comments, form entries and the like, it may not be that difficult for a hacker to put together a profile of you based on that information. You should also steer clear of easily identifiable information when setting up your password recovery questions and answers.

2. Is this password meaningfully different than each of my other ones?

Simply put, if a thief gets ahold of your password for one account, they may try to use it to get into other accounts. When it comes to web security, not all sites are created equal. So, if you’re using the same few passwords for all your sites, the security of your information on all those sites may only be as strong as the weakest link.

3. Is it complex enough?

Just because many sites now have requirements, like using a certain combination of numbers, letters and symbols, doesn’t mean you should let your guard down when it comes to password complexity. Make sure to include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Also, make sure your password is long. Gone are the days when a 4-digit PIN was good enough to keep your information secure.

4. Is 2-factor authentication available? If so, have I enabled it?

What in the world is 2-factor authentication, you ask? It simply means that in addition to your password, you’ll have to provide a different way of identifying yourself. This could be a temporary PIN number texted to your phone or a temporary link sent to your email. Two-factor authentication is a powerful additional layer of security for your password – it means even if a thief were to know your password, they would also have to have the other way of identifying you — your phone or other, separate password source.

5. How frequently will I change it?

Before you create your new password, think about how frequently you plan on changing it. If you don’t have a plan to regularly change your passwords, it’s not a bad idea to put one on your calendar and stick to it.

Hackers are getting smarter, and technology is getting more advanced. But asking yourself the above 5 questions will put you in a much better position when it comes to protecting your personal information online.

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