Why It Might Be Time to Update Your Important Passwords

By Motley Fool Staff Markets Fool.com

Billions of records are leaked every year, which is extra alarming given how many people use the same passwords across multiple sites. In this clip from Industry Focus: Tech, Motley Fool analysts Dylan Lewis and Michael Douglass talk about why it's so important to change your passwords and share some advice for how to get it done.

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A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Jan. 13, 2017.

Dylan Lewis: My resolution that is not your resolution --

Michael Douglass: [laughs]

Lewis: -- the one that we have that is different --

Douglass: We are, in fact, different people. We are in the same room right now, so you know we're different people.

Lewis: We don't groupthink on anything. It's kind of personal finance, kind of tech. I'm going to shoehorn it into tech a little bit. It's to change the passwords on the important accounts I have for my online portals. I'm going to throw out a couple of frightening numbers, just to paint a picture for most people's habits and what is out there in the world. ZDNet, which is an online outlet that covers some tech stuff, they estimated that 2.2 billion records were leaked in 2016. A German research institute did some analysis of those leaked credentials. They found that, of people involved in multiple hacks, 20% of those individuals had the exact same password for several sites. I am not totally guilty of that, but I could be much better and much more original in how I name my passwords. It's been a while since I've even put them in. There's some peace of mind on my end that will come from updating my passwords, making them a little bit less predictable, and maybe tougher to get, and slightly different for each site, so if anything happens to my Gmail account or my Facebook account, it's not also going to impact access to my bank account, or something like that.

Douglass: Right. That's where things get really scary and ugly.

Lewis: For me, that's something I'm just going to have to spend one day just churning through passwords, on a Saturday, and update them. But that's something on my end that's really just oriented toward peace of mind and not having some crazy identity issue rear up next time I see a leak, or something like that.

Douglass: Totally. Of course, something you could do instead, just an idea for blocking and tackling is, the next time you use each of these, just go ahead and change the password. That way, you don't have to just bang it all out in a single day. Instead, you're like, "Oh, I have to look in my bank account, you know what I should do? It's time, I'm going to go ahead and change my bank password right now."

Lewis: That's a great piece of advice. I want to be somewhat systematic about it because I've heard that Healthcare host, Kristine Harjes, has a very memorable way to name her passwords so that she can easily recall them, but they're still unique for each thing she does. So, I want to talk to her a little bit about how that works. Obviously, I'm not going to ask her what her passwords are.

Douglass: [laughs] Right.

Lewis: But, whatever the convention is that she uses to generate them, and co-opt that. If I do it once and I do it right, for four hours, then I really don't have to worry about it that much again.

Douglass: Yeah, totally.

Lewis: So, that's a resolution that's not quite so much in the personal finance sphere, but something that, we're all just trying to rest easy.

Douglass: It could cost you a lot of money, therefore, it's personal finance.

Lewis: [laughs] It's downside protection.

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