Productivity: Stop Remembering Things

This past weekend my family of three went on a short excursion to Kansas City. Everything was going great until we received an email sent to my son’s inbox. It stated that his Instagram password had been changed; but he had not been using his phone or the Internet for hours.

He’d been hacked.

My marching orders for these weekly posts are to recommend ways to become more productive, and while security might not fit the average person’s idea of “productivity,” I think it does.

Let me say two things:

  1. I don’t lump you all into the category of “average” – you’re all special to me.
  2. Anyone who has had to deal with a compromised account on any service ever knows that nothing kills productivity more than the hours wasted trying to regain and secure control.

My son made several mistakes, but the most egregious was using the same password for everything. This might save mental workout when logging in, but turns one lucky guess into the keys to the kingdom.

My son’s second sin was one we have all committed.

Do you know how most security breaches start? With “social engineering.” Most likely, the cause of this weekend’s headache was not logging out of a school computer, or not covering his fingers from prying eyes as he typed in his login credentials.

There are several practices you can implement to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

  • Don’t store your passwords in a notebook next to your computer.
  • Make your passwords difficult to guess. Don’t use birthdays, first names, etc.
  • The most secure passwords are stories. My favorite password that I used previously was “cow store cart home” to describe the journey milk takes to my house. Easy to remember and difficult to guess or brute-force.

Or you can resolve both of these issues by using a password manager. These helpful bits of software store your multitudes of secure username/password combos behind a single password. In addition, they will also generate random strings of text to use as passwords. Talk about security. My favorite password manager is 1password.

You know, I used to joke with Beth about her password. Her one password. She has since converted… to 1password.

Kenton Hansen

Technical Co-Founder Kenton makes digital things. He is a technologist and has had his part in a few startups including software, advertising, and client services. @KentonH