Password Safety for Nurses

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Password Safety for Nurses

The time to think about this is yesterday

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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You cannot be too careful about protecting your identity, privacy and financial information. This is doubly important for nurses because their legal and professional obligations also include safeguarding patients’ personal data, even if that information is stored only on work-designated devices.

Unfortunately, experts agree that many people — you might be among them — are very naïve and careless about the keys that unlock online profiles, mobile devices and even bank accounts. Some users do not even bother to move beyond easy-to-hack passwords like 12345. Here are some hints from the experts on safeguarding your information, whether it’s your personal profiles or your access accounts for work-related systems:

• Use different passwords for different accounts and systems.
If hackers manage to obtain your password from one less-secure device or website, they will often try the same password on your other accounts. Definitely don’t use the same passwords for personal and work accounts — that could give a hacker access to patient information and land you in big trouble.

• Greater password length means greater security.

A password that has 10 characters is much harder to crack than one that has eight — like more than 1,000 times harder.

• Use special characters to add complexity to your password.
While some systems will not accept all symbols, you can almost always use at least some. A password with a mix of symbols, numbers and upper- and lower-case letters can have quadrillions of possible variations. How long would that take to crack?

• Log out of any system or website you aren’t actively using.
It might be more convenient to remain logged into social networking sites or email accounts all the time, but it could give an unauthorized person access to your personal data if you leave your computer or device unattended, even for a few minutes.
This is even more important at work or with work-related devices — make sure you log out if you go on break or step out for a meal so that no one else can use your password or credentials to access confidential patient information.

There are extra levels of security you can add, like two-step verification or password manager programs. However, whatever you do, don’t leave password hints lying around and don’t label a file that contains passwords in any way that indicates that fact.

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