Just about everything you do online today involves using a password-protected account. Emailing, banking, and shopping — all of these rely on having a secure password to safeguard your personal information. But if your passwords are weak or easily guessed, you’re putting yourself at risk of data or identity theft and other cybercrime.
Creating strong passwords
Your password is one of the most important pieces of information you have when it comes to protecting your online accounts. Here are some tips for creating passwords that are difficult to crack:
1. Choose a password that is at least 12 characters long
When you increase the length of your password, the number of combinations that need to be tested in order to crack it increases exponentially. This means automated password-cracking programs will take much longer to guess your password.
2. Include numbers, symbols, and both uppercase and lowercase letters
Using a combination of characters significantly increases the strength and complexity of your password. Try to mix up the characters and avoid sequences, like "1234" or "abcd," to make your password more difficult to figure out.
3. Incorporate shortcut codes or acronyms
Using a phrase and then turning it into a code or an acronym is a great way to remember complex passwords. For example, if your favorite quote is "The best way to predict the future is to create it", then you might make your password "Tbw2ptf!2c!". Pro tip: use phrases you can easily associate with the type of website the password is for. For instance, if it's for a banking website, you could use "$$$s4v3m0ney!$$$".
4. Create passwords with common elements, but customize them for each site
Think of a phrase or sentence that you can easily remember and use the same basic elements to create different passwords for each website. For example, you might use the phrase "I love my cat" as the core of your password, and then customize the other elements for different sites: "1L0v3M!C4t_f4c3b00q" for Facebook, "1L0v3M!C4t_4mz0n" for Amazon, and so on.
5. Create a pattern with your keyboard
Instead of randomly typing out letters, numbers, and symbols, draw a pattern on your keyboard and use that to create your password. For example, you could draw a spiral or triangle on the keyboard and type out the characters in that order. Make sure to vary the case and include special characters.
6. Add emoticons or smiley faces
While some websites limit the symbols you can use in a password, most allow you to add dashes, colons, and parentheses, so you can add an emoticon or two to your password. For instance, if you’re creating a password for a streaming website, your password could be "0nL!n3:-)m0v1es".
7. Use a password generator
If you’re having trouble coming up with a complex password, consider using a password generator. These tools create random passwords that are often too complex for humans to remember, but they’re also nearly impossible for computers to guess.
Password security best practices
In addition to creating strong passwords, there are other best practices you should follow to bolster the security of your online accounts.
- Avoid using personal information and common words. Any personal information that can be looked up online (e.g., dates of birth, phone numbers, addresses) or words found in the dictionary are easy to guess.
- Use a different password for each account. If you use the same password across multiple accounts, a hacker could potentially take over all of your accounts using that single password.
- Hide written passwords. If you choose to write down your passwords, make sure not to leave them in a public place or an easily accessible spot. Keep them in a secure location like a lockbox or safe.
- Use a password manager. Password managers store all of your passwords in a secure digital vault, which you can access by entering a single master password. They can also generate strong passwords for you.
For more tips on how to secure your online accounts, talk to one of our IT security experts.