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The Basics of PIN Security

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By: Editor
October 29, 2013
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The Basics of PIN Security

Security isn't limited to the home. In the age of social media and technology, hackers and thieves are trying to access your private accounts.  It’s more important now than ever to make sure they remain secure. One of the most common ways to do so is by using a personal identification number (PIN).

A PIN is a numeric password that a user must enter before being allowed into a system. They are used in a number of ways, from accessing the ATM to checking into the gym, but they serve a single purpose: to identify the user and limit access to only those who belong. PINs are often the only safeguard protecting our accounts from thieves, so it’s incredibly important to keep them private.

PINs are also used to access residential alarm systems, something many homeowners forget when thinking about PIN security. These user codes are incredibly valuable as they are used for arming and disarming a security system. If the password fell into the wrong hands, the result could be disastrous. A thief would be able to disarm the system and ransack the home without the threat of tripping an alarm.

It is necessary to not only create a secure PIN, but to update it often to ensure that it won’t be compromised. By taking the proper steps, PIN users can create passwords that protect private accounts, information, and homes.

Make Smart Choices

Avoid writing down your PIN whenever possible. Writing it down is risky and usually helps thieves more than the intended users. For the forgetful, there are times when writing down a password is necessary. If it can’t be avoided, there are a few steps to take to make it difficult for a thief to find.

When using a PIN to access an ATM, avoid writing it down on the debit or credit card and avoid keeping it in the same wallet or purse as the card. By keeping them together, it makes it easier for thieves to misrepresent the user and clean out accounts.

When dealing with multiple credit cards, accounts or anything else that requires a PIN, use as many different PINs as possible. At the very least, this prevents a thief who manages to get access to one account from being able to access the others.

For home security system users, avoid writing down the PIN on the panel or sensors. Write it down and keep it far from the control panel. The same rule applies to the password that companies use to identify customers. The last thing you want is for a burglar to easily be able to impersonate you.

Safe Practices

If writing down the PIN is unavoidable, keep it in an uncommon location, like on the bottom of a favorite pan, inside an old shoe, or in a good book -- using a book can be creative way to remember a PIN; mark page 142, chapter 7 and your four-digit PIN is almost disguised: 7142. These locations have special meaning to the user, but are not quick and easy for a burglar to access or understand.

Create a PIN that is as complex as the system allows. Most PINs are limited to four-digit numbers, but some allow for up to 16 characters and the inclusion of letters. A common mistake when creating a PIN with letters is to use easily cracked words or phrases. Another risky move is choosing a date, which is a popular method of creating and remembering a PIN. Without thinking, many people have personal information readily available on social media accounts. Your birthday or anniversary date would be easy for a burglar to crack with a simple Facebook search.

Instead, opt for a PIN that alternates between upper and lower case letters and numbers. If remembering a complex PIN is a concern, create a PIN by improving on an important date by combining a code word with a significant year and month. Don’t forget to integrate upper and lower cases. This PIN is easier to remember and harder to crack.

Protect Yourself

New technology brings new ways for thieves to intrude on your privacy and well-being, but they will have a terrible time trying to get into a bank account or disarming a security system if your PIN is complex and unique. PINs are far from being the perfect defense, but practice the tips offered here and avoid common mistakes.

Do you have any other tips for making a smart, hard to crack PIN? We’d love to hear them! Share in the comments below.

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