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Why are passwords so important?
Connecting to a network is often very easy. However, when you do, you are inviting others on the network to enter your computer. For this reason, strong passwords are important.

When you protect your computer with a password, it makes it harder for someone to access the information on it. In addition, networking gear and hardware firewalls are often password protected to keep outsiders from getting into a private network. Passwords can also protect secured information on websites.

Just important as using a password, is using a strong password. A poorly chosen password can be as bad as no password at all. If people can guess it or easily use a password cracking program to decypher it, you're not getting much protection.

Avoid using common words and phrases as passwords. A surprisingly large number of people use the word "password" as their password. In fact, "password" and "admin" are the first words hackers try when breaking into a system or network. One good rule of thumb is to not use any word found in the dictionary.

Don't use birthdays, anniversaries or your social security number as a password. Not only can these be determined with a bit of research, it's never a good idea to use sensative information like birthdays or social security numbers for anything you don't need to.

A good password uses a random mix of letters and numbers and is at least 8 characters long (though longer is better). A great password adds in special characters like "&", "#" or "?" (if your system allows them). Sure, it's harder to remember, but it's harder to crack, too.

Of course, a good password is only as good as how you secure it. It's best if you can memorize it, but if you can't, put a cheat sheet in a safe that can't be carried away by a thief. Make sure the key or combination to that safe is secured - people often make the mistake of leaving the key near or in the lock to the safe. Don't do the "Post-It note on the monitor" thing. If someone breaks in, they steal your computer and they'll have the password to get to your information.

When securing your network or computers, it's important to remember that most thieves steal in order to sell what they stole. Personal information is increasingly becoming a valuable item to steal. It's important not to make that task any easier for thieves and hackers.

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