Smart phone apps, memory tricks, security services can cure your password fatigue

Maybe there's a book you'd like to order from Amazon, but you can't remember your password.

Or you'd like to check your bank balance online, but you're worried about security.

Renee Repik of Myrtle Beach has just that kind of computer problem.

She suffers from password fatigue.

"Ideally, we're supposed to have a different password for every different place that we would have to use a password. I can't do that," said Repik.

The stay-at-home mom uses one primary password for many different accounts, adding slight variations for each account.

She might add a capital letter at the front of a password, or a symbol at the end.

"But when it comes to which site has which variation, I'm lost."

Mike Schroll says he has solutions for password fatigue.

Schroll is a digital security expert who showed off his skills at last month's Grand Strand Tech Expo.

Schroll's favorite solution is a service called 1Password.

To use it, you only have to remember one password to log in.

The service will store all the unique passwords it has generated for all the web sites you regularly use.

"It's an app on your phone, they have a web interface, they have a mobile app, so no matter where you are, you can access the user name and passwords you need."

If you prefer to use your own brain power to store your passwords, Schroll suggests using a memory device to help you remember them.

Start by choosing a line from a favorite book or movie.

For example, you could use this classic Jack Nicholson line from the movie A Few Good Men: "You can't handle the truth!"

Take the first letter from each word and alternate capital letters: YcHtT.

Add a few numbers (like the Grand Strand's area code) and right there - YcHtT843 - you've got a better password than most.

"It's not a word in the dictionary and it's not something that someone else is using," Schroll said. "It's easy for you to remember because it's that phrase that you really like."

Now, here's what you should not do.

It's Splashdata's list of the worst, and unfortunately most widely-used, passwords:

1. 123456

2. password

3. 12345678

4. qwerty

5. abc123

You can find the full list here.

Use one of those all-too-obvious passwords and you're pretty much begging to be hacked.

"The first thing that a hacker is going to do if he wants to get access to your account is try the list of most popular passwords," said Schroll.

A national survey showed 73 percent of Americans have been the victim of some type of cyber crime.

Schroll says two-factor authentication can help you avoid becoming a hacking victim.

Two-factor authentication is when a smart phone app or a credit card-like token generates random-number passwords.

The numbers can be used as a password only once and they're constantly changing.

"Even if someone figures out your user name and password they still can't get into your service without also having your cell phone or this physical token to enter that number in."

Other than using a device like that, Schroll says the best password is one that combines upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

Yes, that makes it harder to memorize, but it's also harder to steal.

"The longer and more complex your password is, the more likely it is that it'll take longer or they'll never crack your password," Schroll said.

So, is any of this advice getting through to Renee Repik?

She thinks she's pretty secure using her smart phone to check her bank balance, but she still worries.

"Does that mean that someone is hacking into my account? Are they getting my login information? So we try to be very, very cautious, but you can only do so much," Repik said.

As one Microsoft executive famously wrote: "The only secure password is the one you can't remember."