Illinois REALTOR® Magazine  | April 2014
By Stephanie Sievers
Are you guilty of these password offenses?
You write your passwords on a Post-it note and tape it to your computer monitor.
Your password includes personal information easily figured out by looking at your Facebook profile.
You have a handful of easy-to-remember passwords or variations of the same password and use them for multiple accounts.
With reports of data security breaches, some technology experts say it’s time REALTORS® get serious about protecting and managing their passwords.
“Most hackers are looking for the easiest way to get into your account and they’ll use the obvious stuff,” says Steve Volkodav, association executive for the North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® and the association’s former IT director. “For someone who is changing their passwords on a regular basis or has stronger passwords, the hacker is more likely to move on because there are so many other people who are using the basics or are using the same password for multiple accounts.”
One way to keep track of all your passwords is by using an online password manager program that generates secure passwords for your accounts and then stores them all in one place, leaving you with only one password to remember – the master password that gets you into your manager program.
REALTOR® James Votanek, a broker with @properties in Libertyville, began using the password manager program LastPass a year ago and has found it to be an efficient way to store the more than 80 passwords he needs for everything from his banking accounts to his REALTOR® association logins, vendor websites and client-related information.
After the initial work of setting up his accounts in LastPass, Votanek can now access his secure information from multiple devices and has peace of mind knowing that all of his passwords are in a central location and he only needs to remember one master password. The randomly generated passwords, which can be between 4-100 characters long, are also more of a deterrent against hackers, he said.
“I think of it as another layer of security for everybody — myself and my clients,” Votanek said.
Volkodav says most people don’t think about using a password manager program until it’s too late and someone has already hacked into their account. Another tip: change your passwords once a month and don’t forget to change your usernames several times each year, too. It’s also a good idea to change your master password periodically, but be aware that with many password programs you are the only one with access to it. LastPass can send you security question prompts but if you forget your master password, LastPass can’t retrieve it, Volkodav said.
If you’re uncomfortable keeping your most sensitive passwords in an online password program, David Papadopoulos, an IT consultant with Network Management Services in Chicago, says another option is to keep those separate in a secure location and use the password manager program for everything else.
The benefits of technology come with tradeoffs and one is being more diligent about security and protecting personal information, he said.
LastPass - lastpass.com  - Free or $12 annually for the premium version
1Password - agilebits.com/onepassword  - Price varies depending on device
Dashlane - www.dashlane.com  - Free
DataVault - www.ascendo-inc.com  - $9.99
KeePass - keepass.info  - Free
SplashData , a password management company, compiled a list of the 25 worst passwords of 2013. Here are a few of the dubious contenders and we hope you aren’t using one:
1. Don’t use words that can be found in the dictionary. Instead, use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
2. Don’t create passwords using personal information that can be easily guessed or found through social media such as your birthday, your pet’s name or your favorite movie.
3. Create a passphrase to help you remember more complex passwords such as “Thispasswdis4myemail.”
4. Use different passwords for different accounts and change them regularly.
(SOURCE: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)