Are Your Passwords as Secure as You Think?

Identity theft on the web with credit cards and social security
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Reno, NV - We all log on to pay bills, manage accounts, and connect with friends on social media. Just about all of those secure online sites require a password. But how safe our yours?

"I think it's almost unbreakable," says Kegan Peterson, a UNR student.

"Never really think about it," says another UNR student.

But experts say you should think about how safe your password is because hackers are. They also say social media is making it easier than ever for criminals to figure out your passwords.

"A lot of times, what people do is choose something personal to them. Somebody trying to find that information out with the internet now, can find that information easily," says Tim Collins, a support specialist at IQ Technology Solutions, a managed services provider based in Reno.

"We are essentially your IT department," says Collins.

He says figuring out someone's password isn't as hard as people think - when people choose one that has personal significance.

"If their password is their girlfriend's name or their pet's name, probably in the past they've talked about it or put that on their Facebook page and I'm going to get on there, I'm going to find out what that is and I'm going to start adding maybe the number one to the end of it. There we go, I have the password!" says Collins.

And if a hacker gets access to your password and your email address, that person has free reign over your accounts.

"I can reset your passwords, I can send password resets to your email, accept them myself and get into bank accounts, get into your social networking," says Collins. He says don't think you're safe just because you are convinced no one can figure out your passwords. A diligent hacker can get access to them through other secure sites. For instance, the ones that ask you to answer security questions. That's because, a lot of times, the answers to those questions are also online.

"Mother's maiden name, the name of your first pet, your first car. If you've talked about that anywhere else, I'm going to find that information. I'm going to get into your account.. I'm going to get your password," says Collins, referring to how easy it is to crack the answers to those questions.

That's the problem Kristen Wood found. The Reno resident noticed that the answers to the security questions she had set were visible on the internet.

"As far as finding the answers to my security questions, I think someone could definitely do that based off of information on my Facebook page," says Wood.

Now, she's going to change that. Experts recommend that when you set up those security questions, put in fake information.

"Instead of saying that you were born in Reno, say you were born in Topeka," says Collins. "Choose a made up life and those types of questions, as long as you remember them, aren't going to be known to anybody else."

Back to those passwords. If you're ready to change yours, here's what specialists recommend:

If you find that you have too many passwords that you can remember, experts say there are cell phone apps and software programs that can store all of those passwords for you. All you would have to remember is that one password to access that program.