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Password Security | Should I Write Down My Passwords?

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Password Security Blog

These days, one of the biggest concerns for most people is privacy and password security. Everywhere we turn there are attempts by others to invade our privacy. Whether through official means like terms of service and app permissions or a hacker attempting to corrupt your computer – sometimes it feels like we are constantly under attack. Our one solution to these attacks on our privacy has been the password, and the password has served us well for quite some time now. As time has gone by, passwords have been needed more and more for different accounts. With the increased use of passwords to protect information, there has also been an increase in password security and complexity. We have all heard the rules by now: don’t just use letters for your password, make sure your password is X characters long, use special characters …etc. etc. etc.

All of these guidelines are great, but following them is no easy task for any mere mortal. Anyone who tries to follow these guidelines is bound to run into a problem or two.

The big one? Trying to remember all of those complex passwords.

Depending on how complex your passwords are, it can be almost impossible to remember all of them. This leads people to try things that undermine password security, such as using the same passwords more than once, or just trying to use simpler, shorter, uncomplicated passwords. This can leave one in a bad situation with vulnerable credentials.

However, there is a method that many people try in order to maintain password security without having to remember every single complex password, and that is to simply write them down. I’ve always been told never to write my passwords down because there is a chance that someone could find those passwords and have access to all of my information.

Times, it seems, are a changin’.

Does Writing Down a Password Undermine Password Security?

So I guess the question is whether writing down passwords is such a bad thing or not. Obviously there are pros and cons to both sides of that argument(bet you didn’t see that coming), and, of course, there are different options to choose from when figuring out how to secure a password.

Pros

First of all, writing down passwords on a piece of paper isn’t really as bad as people make it sound. The nice thing about having a physical piece of paper is that it is actually hard to find and steal. In order to access the passwords on that sheet of paper one has to be in your physical location to do so. This is comforting because it means a hacker from overseas in Russia has no way of accessing those passwords that you have saved on your piece of paper. Having them written down also means you will have stronger, longer passwords that you don’t need to remember; a major improvement on your typical password security.

Another thing to add to the pros list for writing down your passwords: human nature. For the most part, we as individuals are far better at securing a piece of paper (Say in a wallet or cell-phone case that never leaves your side) than we are at remembering complex, randomized codes.

Cons

Even though there are some benefits to increasing password security by writing down your passwords, there are some drawbacks as well. The first and most obvious drawback is what happens if you misplaced that piece of paper.  You definitely aren’t going to remember them – that’s why you wrote them down – so that means you will have to change all of the passwords and write them down again. That can be a major headache in the name of improving password security.

Another issue with writing down passwords comes from where you decide to store the list. If you do not keep the list in your wallet or another secure location that you have control over, you risk exposing your sensitive information to any Tom, Dick, or Jane who walks by.  If you left it on your desk at work or on a sticky note in your office, it’s not that hard to take those passwords and compromise your information.

So even though writing down passwords does increase password security and make it more difficult for someone online to steal your passwords, it can potentially result in easier access for someone to steal those passwords locally.  It all depends on how well you protect those passwords.

The Skinny on Password Security – Password Managers and SSO

There are other options for remembering passwords or writing them down. You can try to use a password manager with a digital vault, such as LastPass, to remember all of your passwords.  Alternatively, if you don’t want your passwords stored in a  digital safe either, you can try to use a Single Sign On solution which automatically remembers and inputs all of your passwords without having to ever see a login screen.

For both password managers and Single Sign-On, you still need to remember at least one password to login to the software in question, so the password is not eliminated altogether. However, either of these options can provide an alternative to wiring down a password for password security. Either way, you only have to ever remember one strong and secure password. In comparison, it is much simpler – and better for password security – to recall and input one strong password than it is to recall and enter 20 different passwords.

So, in conclusion, even though writing down passwords can be a viable option for password security depending on how well you protect them, the best choice might be a secure, digital option. Whatever your choice, never sacrifice password security for convenience – you may come to regret it in the end.

 

What do you think about writing down passwords – Let me know in the comments!

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