Creating strong passwords may seem like a daunting task, especially when the recommendation is to have a unique password for each site you visit. Anyone would be intimidated if they had to create and memorize multiple passwords like Wt4e-79P-B13^qS.
As a result, you may be using just one password even though you know it’s unsafe and that if it gets compromised all of your Web information is exposed. Or you use several passwords, but they are all short simple words or include numbers that relate to your life they are still too easy to guess. Or, if you made hard to remember passwords (probably because your business or a Web site forced you to) then you likely have a list of the passwords right next to your computer - even though you know this also compromises your safety if others use your computer.
The key aspects of a strong password are length (the longer the better); a mix of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols; with no ties to your personal information, and no dictionary words. The good news is you don’t have to memorize awful strings of random letters numbers and symbols in order to incorporate all of these aspects into your passwords; you simply need a few skills.
The secret is to make passwords memorable but hard to guess. Learning a few simple skills will make creating strong memorable passwords easy. Creating them can actually be fun - and your payoff in increased safety is huge.
First, look at a few weak passwords to understand why these put you at risk:
- Password - The word "Password" is the most commonly used password and it is pathetically weak - as are ’default’ and ’blank’. These are simple words and easily guessed or broken with a hacker program that uses a dictionary assault on the password.
- Marshall1968 - Though this uses 12 characters and includes letters and numbers, names that are associated with you or your family, or uses other identifying information such as birth year, are easily hacked.
- F1avoR - Though it mixes up capitols and numbers, it is too short and substituting the number 1 for the letter l is easy to guess.
To avoid these easy to guess or hack passwords try one or more of the following tricks:
Use a phrase and incorporate shortcut codes or acronyms: These examples let you use phrases that either means something to you, or you associate with a type of website. For example, the ’all for one and one for all’ may be the password for a social networking site where it’s all about sharing. It could be a phrase about money for a banking site, and so on.
- 2BorNot2B_ThatIsThe? (To be or not to be, that is the question - from Shakespeare)
- L8r_L8rNot2day (Later, later, not today - from the kid's rhyme)
- 4Score&7yrsAgo (Four score and seven years ago - from the Gettysburg Address)
- John3:16=4G (Scriptural reference)
- 14A&A41dumaS (one for all and all for 1 - from The Three Musketeers, by Dumas)
Use passwords with common elements, but customized to specific sites: These examples tell a story using a consistent style so if you know how you write the first sections, and you’re on the login page for a site you’ll know what to add.
- ABT2_uz_AMZ! (About to use Amazon)
- ABT2_uz_BoA! (About to use Bank of America)
- Pwrd4Acct-$$ (Password for account at the bank)
- Pwrd4Acct-Fb (Password for a Facebook account)
Play with your keyboard: You don’t have to think of it just as the numbers you see, it can also be a canvas to draw on.
- Add emoticons: While some websites limit the types of symbols you can use, most allow a wide range. Make your symbols memorable by turning them into smiley faces to instantly boost your password power.1qazdrfvgy7, is really hard to remember unless you know that it’s a W on your keyboard -that’s a lot easier to remember! You can make letters, shapes, and more just ’drawing’ on the keyboard.
- Commonly allowed symbols:
- Some basic smiley faces:
- C?U2canCRE8Pwords;-) (See? You too can create passwords ☺)
You’re now ready to create your own strong, long, memorable mixed-character passwords using one or more of these tricks. Or, create your own system. Now, share the tips with others, just don’t share your passwords!