I’ve said it before, use upper and lower case, use number and letter combinations and when possible, if the website allows it, use special characters. It has been documented that “Adding just one capital letter and one asterisk would change the processing time for an 8 character password from 2.4 days to 2.1 centuries.”
It is great advice to strengthen your passwords. It is just as important is to make sure your PC is free of malicious programs such as spyware and key-loggers. Beware of RATS a.k.a “Remote Access Trojans.” RAT’s can capture every keystroke typed, take a snapshot of your screen and even take rolling video of your screen via a webcam. But what’s most damaging is RATs gaining full access to your files and if you use a password manager they have access to that as well.
RAT’s covertly monitor a PC generally without the user’s knowledge. RAT’s are a criminal hackers dream and are the key ingredient in spyware. Common RAT’s are the LANRev Trojan and “Backdoor Orifice”.
Installing RAT’s can be done by full onsite access to the machine or remotely when the user opens an infected attachment, clicking links in a popup, installing a permissioned toolbar or any other software you think is clean. More ways include picking up a thumb-drive you find on the street or in a parking lot then plugging it in, and even buying off the shelf peripherals like a digital picture frame or extra hard drive that’s infected from the factory. The bad guys can also trick a person when playing a game as seen here in this YouTube video.
An unprotected PC is the path of least resistance. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware. Run it automatically and often.
A PC not fully controlled by you is vulnerable. Use administrative access to lock down a PC preventing installation of anything.
Many people leave their PC on all day long. Consider shutting it down when not in use.