Passwords: How to organize, store and secure
There are a lot of “holidays” in March that relate to organizing. For example, the 2nd Sunday is “Organize Your Home Office Day” and the 2nd Week of March is “Procrastination Week” and the 3rd Week is “Clutter Awareness Week.”
The theme that relates to each of these holidays can be described in one word: PASSWORDS.
What is the best way to keep them organized, at your fingertips and secure?
Ironically, this is also a question many of my clients have asked about recently. Allow me to share with you some of what I advised them.
Recognize there are two types of passwords. Those that are “highly-sensitive” and those that are just “sensitive.” A good way to determine if a password is “highly-sensitive” is to ask yourself the following questions:
1. What are the risks to my online banking/financial accounts if someone got ahold of my password?
2. Will I jeopardize personal information about me or my family if someone gains access to a password I use for personally identifiable information; such as: birthdate, social security number, city where you were born, mother’s maiden name, billing address?
There are many ways to organize and secure your passwords, the key is to select one system and maintain it. If you can’t immediately put your fingers on your passwords or you have passwords stored in more than a couple of places, it may be time to re-think how you are storing them.
Password Apps and Software. There are apps and software available for you to store and organize this information; but the only software I continue to recommend is software you most likely already have on your computer – Microsoft Excel. Why? Because when you password protect an Excel spreadsheet it is one of the most difficult to access. More about how to do this later in the article. I also like to use a spreadsheet over a Word document because it is easier to add new passwords and keep them in alphabetical order for quick reference.
It’s probably best to avoid free apps that offer to store passwords for you. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. It’s difficult to determine how legitimate apps are for password security. How will you know how good the encryption is for one of these apps?
Storing your Information. Using columns on your spreadsheet; create one for each of the following:
Website / Company
Consider creating a spreadsheet for both types of passwords – “highly sensitive” and “sensitive”. You may not want to store the “highly sensitive” passwords on the computer at all; depending on how secure your firewall is. Most likely, the highly sensitive passwords will be a shorter list and used more frequently so you may not need to access this list often.
The “sensitive” password list will comprise the majority of your passwords. It’s not uncommon for me to help people create these spreadsheets that have over 100 passwords.
Organizing your Information. The quickest way to locate a password on your list is to sort the spreadsheet based on Website/Company name. As you add passwords over time, insert a row where needed and then enter the new information.
Tip: To insert a row in Excel, find the location where you want to add a row. If for example you want to add a row between row #8 and #9, right click on row #9 and a new row will be inserted directly above row #9.
Securing your Information. Please do not name your spreadsheet “Passwords.” I’m all about descriptive file names for documents, but this time I say make an exception. Here are the steps in Excel 2010 to set a password on your workbook:
1. With the workbook open, click the File tab.
2. Click on the Protect Workbook button.
3. Select Encrypt with Password and enter your password. You will be asked to enter this password twice.
4. Write the password down. This is very important. While you may not want to rely on your own memory, if someone else in your family needs access to this information you want to make it easy for them.
Important Tip: This password should be a minimum of 14 characters, of upper and lower cases as well as numbers and special characters. With a password that long on an Excel spreadsheet it could take someone several years of continuous attempts with a software program to hack into. You will be very safe with a password this long with a variety of letters, numbers and characters.
Important Tip: If you lose or forget this password it can’t be recovered. The password you set is case sensitive.
Tip: If others do not have access to your computer where the spreadsheet is stored or if you travel with your laptop, print a list of your passwords. At the top of the page, write the file name as well as the path to where it is stored on your computer. Note the password here. Then, store this list in a secure location where others in the family that may need access know where it is. You could also use the Header or Footer area of the Excel spreadsheet to note the file name, path and password.
Additionally, you could use DropBox to store your “sensitive”spreadsheet and invite a family member to have access this this file. Then, when you update the document, family members have the most current version. Don’t forget to also have a “highly sensitive” password on your DropBox account.
In our home, my husband knows where this list is stored in case he needs to access it if I’m not home. And then as one of my clients mentioned recently; she wanted to have all of her passwords easily accessible to her husband; should something happen to her. While we don’t like to think about this, it could make things a lot easier in a time-of-need and save a tremendous amount of time and frustration.
This is a project you can start today by setting up the framework and adding to it each time you create a new account with a password. The key to this system is maintenance and ensure your list is always up to date. I hope you will make the time to organize and secure your passwords; you’ll be glad you did!
Virtual Organizing - Look What We Organized without Being There!
Did you know that Eliminate Chaos offers virtual organizing and productivity services? A couple of our recent projects were featured in the March 2012 Better Homes and Gardens - Secrets of Getting Organized - Special Interest Publication
Click here to read how you can find more space in your pantry and make it look beautiful without and major overhaul.
Click here to see the amazing home office transformation that will make you want to organize your office.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can work with you virtually, you can read about our Virtual Residential Organizing and Virtual Home Office Productivity Services here.
Organizing with Laura - Laura's New Blog on Real Estate.com
I am thrilled to announce that beginning on March 10, 2012 I will be a weekly contributor with blog posts on a variety of Home Organizing topics that will be posted on the website Real Estate.com. Every Saturday I will blog about a new organizing topic. On Monday you will find those blog posts linked to our Eliminate Chaos Facebook page. If you haven’t “liked” our page already, please take a moment to “like” us by clicking here.
Seminar and Class Schedule for March and April
Have you heard? I am part of the Master Builders Association Speaker’s Bureau and they will be sponsoring several upcoming seminars I will give at several of the libraries in Washington State. There are two topics:
Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life
Rightsizing: Less Stuff = Less Stress
Click here to see a list of dates and locations.
Eliminate my “Paper” Chaos – March 29, 2012 (Thursday)
Eliminate my “Home Office” Chaos – April 7, 2012 (Saturday)
Organizing with Laura: Real Life Strategies & Techniques – April 20, 2012 (Friday)
Best Regards - and Happy Organizing,
You may reprint this article in its entirety with the following credit: © 2012 Eliminate Chaos. Reprinted with permission from Laura Leist, CPO of Eliminate Chaos. To receive Eliminate Chaos eNewsletters, click here.