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New thought on Passwords and Security

We are urging people to review new, stronger standards to protect the passwords of their online accounts.

Every individual who maintains any type of online accounts should use strong passwords to protect against savvy cybercriminals taking over their identities and accessing sensitive tax and financial data.

But there’s been some new thinking as to what a strong password is. The latest guidance suggests using a passphrase such as a favorite line from a movie or a series of associated words rather than using a password. The idea is to create a passphrase that can be remembered easily and protect the account. This means passwords like – “uE*s3P%8V)” – are out. Longer, personal phrases people can remember – for example, SunWalkRainDrive – are now preferred.

The IRS, like all federal agencies, follows the cybersecurity framework set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST, which is a branch of the Department of Commerce. NIST last year rethought its guidance on passwords.

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NIST suggested these three steps to build a better password:

Step 1

Leverage your powers of association. Identify associated items that have meaning to you.

Step 2

Make the associations unique to you. Passphrases should be words that can go together in your head, but no one else would ever suspect. Good example: Items in your living room such as BlueCouchFlowerBamboo. Bad example: Names of your children.

Step 3

Picture this. Create a passphrase that you can picture in your head. In our example, picture items in your living room. The key is to create a passphrase that is hard for a cybercriminal to guess but easy for you to remember.

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