We’ve all be told time and time again to create and use strong passwords. Some websites and companies even force you to use complex passwords that are a minimum length or contain uppercase characters, numbers, and even special characters (!, @, #, etc). But why are such complicated, hard-to-remember passwords important? Why use passwords at all?
With so many details of our life now being stored or managed online, using strong passwords is more important than ever! It's all too easy to go about your online life without ever thinking twice about using secure passwords, or maybe you find passwords to be a nuisance. It can happen, though. Imagine if a hacker was to gain access to your:
- Email account to monitor your personal communications
- Online banking account to make transfers or view account numbers
- Facebook, Twitter, etc. to post negative or defamatory comments to your friends
- Online shopping account to make purchases with your saved credit card numbers
- Online file storage to access or delete your personal information
- Remote business connection to spread viruses through your company network
What to Definitely, Absolutely, Not Use as Your Password
This is the list of the Top 25 Most Common Passwords of 2012, as reported by CBS News. Make sure you're not using any of these passwords as you can be sure that these are the first to be tried by any would-be hacker.
How to Create a Strong Password
Creating a strong password can be broken down into two requirements:
- Password Length - We recommend a minimum of 8 characters. This is the absolute, most important consideration for creating a strong password. For example, assuming you followed the rest of the recommendations below, the time a computer would need to guess a password containing only 6 characters is 52 seconds. Increase that to 8 characters and now you're looking at 3 days. Add another 2 characters (up to 10 now) and a hacker would need to spend about 58 years.
- Password Complexity - We recommend using all 4 types of complex characters. A complex password doesn't mean it has to be a random bunch of characters. Complexity means that a password uses more than just lowercase characters. Ideally, you want your password to contain at least one of each of the following: lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters (!, @, #, etc). A 10-letter long, all lowercase password that might take a computer 9 hours to guess is boosted to 14 years by simply using 1 uppercase letter and 1 special character instead.
These passwords should be treated like the keys to your home. It can certainly be difficult to remember a different, super-complex password for all of the different things you use. Try some of these tips to create strong passwords that you can actually remember.
How to Remember a Strong Password
Use sentences instead of single words. Use something easy for you to remember and has some kind of personal significance.
- Start with an easy-t0-remember phrase — For example: Dymin is the best
- Remove the spaces — Dyministhebest!
- Change some letters into numbers or special characters — Dymin1sth3be$t
Use a Passphrase. A passphrase can be abbreviations or initials of a longer phrase, such as a favorite song. For example, "My baloney has a first name, it's OSCAR!" could become "Mbhafn,IO!"
Use a Password Manager. A password manager is a software program that can store your various user names and passwords for many different websites and computers. This way, you can use more complex passwords without fear of forgetting them. Of course, they're all protected by your one, primary password, so make sure that's a really good one! Try Roboform for a good password manager.
Is Your Password Hacker-Proof?
Here are a couple of great website to test your password to see how long it would take a computer to crack your password by simply guessing every possible variation.
General Password Tips
- Use passwords that are at least 8 characters long and contain uppercase/lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The greater the variety, the better.
- Use phrases instead of words. This helps you create long, difficult-to-guess passwords that are easy to remember.
- Try adding numbers that are significant to you, yet unique, to the end of a word or phrase.
- Avoid using single words that would be found in a dictionary. Hackers' software will try these dictionary words first.
- Avoid sequences or repeated characters (e.g., 123456, 111111). Again, hackers' software will try these combinations first.
- Do not use the same password for all your websites and computers. This one is very important. If one of your passwords were to be discovered, the hacker now has access to them all!
- Never write down your passwords. Use the tips above for remembering your passwords, so you're not leaving them to be found.
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