If you do anything at all online, chances are there are at least a few websites you use that require login credentials. Banking websites, social media, sites where you log in to pay your bills… all of these require a username and password in order to access your private information.
Remembering a bunch of different passwords can be difficult, which is what leads many people to choose one, simple password and use it over and over again. Unfortunately, this practice is extremely unsafe and can easily lead to your accounts being hacked and your personal data being compromised.
In order to protect yourself and your information, you need to learn how to come up with a strong password that will be hard to hack but easy for you to remember. The following tips and tricks can help you keep your personal info safe, prevent others from accessing your accounts, and protect your bank accounts, emails, etc.
How Weak is My Password?
To learn how to make a strong password, the first thing you need is to understand why your current password may be considered weak. Below are some of the components of a very weak password:
- It contains your personal information. Many people make the mistake of using things like birthdays, anniversaries, pets’ names, addresses, etc. in their passwords. While these things are certainly easy for you to remember, they can also be easy for others to guess. Anyone who knows you well (or anyone who has obtained some of your personal info) can easily crack a password that contains personal info.
- It contains obvious words. The most commonly used password is: Password. This, along with other common words like blank, correct, home, etc., make terrible passwords because they are so common and easy to guess. Really, any regular dictionary word is not good password material. These are the first things someone will try when trying to crack your password!
- It’s short. Hackers often use code-breaking software, and short passwords take fewer tries to crack, making them inherently unsafe.
- It contains obvious combinations. Way too many people choose a string of numbers (e.g. 12345) or a string of letters (e.g. abcde) as their password. Again, these kinds of combinations are way too obvious to be safe.
How Strong is My Password?
Now that we’ve covered the most obvious things someone can do when creating a password, let’s talk about how to create a strong password. The short, simple answer to creating a secure password is using a long mix of upper and lower case letters along with numbers and symbols. The longer and more random your password is, the safer it will be. Additionally, the following tips can help you create a password that is unique, safe, and easy for you to remember:
- Use at least ten to twelve characters. Remember, length is key.
- Never use words out of the dictionary. At the very least, if you’re using a regular word like house, switch some of the letters with numbers and symbols. E.g. (-)0uS3
- Use emoticons. That’s right, many of the symbols you’re allowed to use within a password can be made into emoticons. Those are easy to remember and hard to hack!
- Use a phrase that means something to you, but incorporate a mix of characters. For example, you could change the phrase “Over the moon” into a super-secure password by switching up the characters. E.g. 0V3rTh33M**n!.
- Create your own password algorithm. For this trick, you would choose the beginning and/or ending characters that would remain the same for each password, but switch up the middle characters depending on what site you’re using, or vice versa. For example, you could choose to start each password with “?” and end each password with “8” but change the middle letters out. In this example, your Facebook login could be ?f@c3b00k8 and your amazon password could be ?amA\0n8. This method takes a little getting used to but is extremely effective.
- If all else fails, get a password manager and create random passwords. Programs like LastPass are great resources, not only for storing passwords but helping you create secure passwords. LastPass has a feature that will create a random password for you for any site and then safely store it so you can remember it. Alternatively, you could just mash a bunch of random keys on your keyboard, use that as a password, and have LastPass keep it safe for you.
How to Keep Your Password Secure
Now that you’ve gotten rid of your weak password and made a stronger one, you have to protect it! In addition to using password managers like the ones mentioned above, you can also take the following steps to keep your password safe:
- Never reuse your passwords across multiple accounts. Each account you have should have its own unique password.
- Don’t write your passwords down on paper. If you can’t remember them, use a password manager.
- Don’t share your passwords with anyone, ever!
- Update your passwords at least every six months.
- Don’t use a password you’ve ever used before.
- Never send your passwords via an unencrypted method like email or text.
- Never save or click the “remember me” option on passwords when using a public or shared computer or device.
- Use two-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Set up a recovery phone number and/or email whenever you can.
Implementing a strong password policy is just one of the ways you can protect yourself and your devices. Another way is by working with an experienced IT management company like Hooks Systems Technology. We have years of experience helping a variety of customers with things like network monitoring, user and network support, and network management – all while ensuring their data is safe and sound. If you need help protecting and managing your computers and network, get in touch with us!