What Makes A Strong Password?

Are you sure you know what makes a strong password? Consider the passwords you use every day for online banking or social media.

Are you confident they’re strong enough?

When was the last time you updated them?

This article covers the essentials for creating strong passwords and safely storing them, and for keeping your passwords up to date.

Creating A Strong Password

Not too long ago you could use a simple and easy to remember password, like a birthday or the name of your first pet. Not so anymore. Nowadays hackers and malware are using sophisticated programs to systematically break down more complex passwords like C0m3_0n. Some of them search for patterns on social media, so it’s important to make sure your security settings are set to ‘private’ or ‘only friends.’ For more information on how to secure your social media account, see my article on Social Media Security

A strong password is one that looks like a long, random string of characters to both humans and computers. The hardest – and most important! – part is not only creating a strong password, but then also remembering what you’ve created. These steps will help you create (and remember) your strong password: 

  1. Make it memorable. Choose a random sentence from your favorite book. Make an acronym using the first letter of each word. This is your password. 
  2. Make it long. Make your password more than 10 characters in length. The longer the better.
  3. Make it alphanumeric. Use a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and special symbols.  

Here’s an example:

  1. “People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”- Isaac Asimov ~ I, Robot
  2. Bhmotnoyfcys
  3. 8=m07/0yf<y$

Create some practice passwords and then type them into a website like www.passwordmeter.com to test your new password skills. When you’re ready, create some real ones (but don’t test them – your passwords should never be used anywhere else!).

Password Managers

Web browsers like Chrome and Safari have built-in features for managing passwords. These features can be set to remember and auto-fill passwords. Instructions for managing your password settings in Chrome can be found here, and for Safari hereIf you’re looking for a more secure way to manage your passwords, I would recommend installing a password manager.

A password manager uses one master password to manage all of your passwords and personal information (like website logins, credit cards, banks accounts, passports, drivers license, etc.). The built-in security features for a password manager can detect when someone is logging in from an unauthorized device and will send a verification email to the address on your account before it grants access. The other major bonus of using a password manager is that it can randomly generate passwords for you.

Lastpass

1Password

If you decide that you don’t need this much security you can keep a little black book of passwords hidden somewhere safe, away from your computer.

When To Change Your Passwords

Don’t change your passwords more than once a year if you don’t have to, and don’t use the same password for multiple websites.  Avoid using public Wifi or logging on in public places. If you login on to public Wifi, make sure the web address starts with HTTPS (instead of HTTP). The ‘S’ will make sure that your information travels through a safe tunnel to its destination.

Reasons to change your password:

  1. You’ve received an email or telephone call from a trusted source telling you to change your password. Online services that use your banking or credit card information will alert you if there is suspected fraudulent activity. If you think it might be a scam, see What A Scam Looks Like in my article about Secure Online Banking.
  2. Your device has been lost or stolen. Regardless of whether you have enabled the ‘Save Password’ feature on the web browser on your device, assume that your passwords will need to be changed.
  3. Your house has been broken into. Period. And, if you keep a little black book of passwords in your house – even if it hasn’t been stolen – assume that your passwords need to be changed.

How Can I Help?

Do you want help? Are all these passwords and accounts for everything driving you crazy? Call me and let’s book a time to look over your password strategy. I’ll help you streamline it and make sure you are safe and secure.