Passwords are the digital keys to our networks of friends, our work colleagues, and even our banking and payment services.

The most important two passwords are those for your email and social network accounts. If someone gains access to your email account, they could use the “forgot your password?” link on other websites you use, like online shopping or banking sites. If a hacker gets into your social network, they have the ability to scam your friends by sending out links to dangerous websites or posting fraudulent messages asking for money. The bottom line is that a good password is all that may stand between you and a cybercriminal.

Strong passwords are the key to your digital life. Be sure to protect your information by utilizing the tips provided in this article.

Make Your Password At Least 10 Character

The general rule of thumb use to be a minimum of 8 characters but 10 or more is safer, especially with the high availability of cheap compute power to brute force shorter passwords.

Avoid Dictionary words

This can be a tough one to avoid, as the temptation is to use common dictionary words as part of our passwords. Yes, it’s true, one of the most common passwords in use is “Password.” And, no, that’s not a good practice.

Always Use Numbers, Letters & Special Characters

Make your password at least 30,000 times stronger by using a combination of mixed-case letters, numbers and special characters compared to a password consisting of only lowercase letters. One trick that is not suggested is replacing characters with common number and special character replacements in dictionary words, like this: tr1ck0rteat. Also stay away from using sequential patterns like: “123”, “abc”, or even common sequential keyboard patterns like “asdf” or “qwerty”.

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Never Use Personally Identifiable Information

Those trying to break into your account may have information about you like your birthdate, address, phone number, etc. They will use that information to help them guess your password, so it’s best to leave that type of info out of your passwords.

Use A Unique Password For Every Account

Having the strongest password on the planet but using it across multiple accounts does you no good if one of those accounts is compromised. For example, Yahoo discovered a major breach that compromised about a billion of its users’ accounts. If your Yahoo password was strong but used across other accounts, the attackers could use your Yahoo password to log in to those other accounts. 

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Strong password Tips

Fear not, creating strong and secure passwords is not impossible. Combined with the strong password basics outlined in this article, here are some tips and examples for creating passwords that will help keep your account safe:

1. Use a phrase and mix it up with acronyms, nicknames, and shortcuts 

Making use of acronyms and shortcuts can provide secure yet easy to remember passwords. For example:

  • humTdumt$@t0nAwa11 (Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall)
  • 1tsrAIn1NGcts&DGS! (It’s raining cats and dogs!)
  • p@$$GOandCLCt$200 (Pass Go and collect $200)

2. Have some fun, incorporate emoticons

Emoticons are the text format of emojis, commonly seen as various “faces” such as: 🙂 🙁 😮 Incorporating emoticons can help make passwords strong:

  • @11Work:-(&NOplayMAK3$jackD11:’( (All work and no play makes Jack dull)
  • L37sH@vEsumfUN!;-) (Let’s have some fun!)
  • i<3w1LyW0NK@:-0 (I love Willy Wonka)
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3. Use a (less common) pattern on your keyboard
Phrases can be fun and memorable, but some people prefer a more visual way to remember their password. In that case, picking a pattern on the keyboard can be useful. This is best described with examples and pictures:

  • 3efBGy&uK>lp_
  • BNM<>li&*()_+
  • zSxDcFvGbHnJmK,L.:/”

4. Use a strong password and customize for the specific account

This technique is particularly useful for when you have a strong password and would like to use it across multiple accounts on any web services you use. Since we know we shouldn’t use the same password across multiple accounts (no matter how strong that password is), we can customize the password per account. For example, we have our strong password based on the phrase “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall” and want to use it across Amazon, Google, and Netflix:

  • AMZn+humTdumt$@t0nAwa11
  • humTdumt$@t0nAwa11@gOoGL
  • humTdumt$@t0nAwa114netFLX