As technology advances to make life easier, it also further embeds itself in our lives in ways we would never have imagined. With this comes the endless number of passwords that grant you—and potentially hackers—access to every aspect of your life. To ensure you are protected, consider these password tips.
- Use long, alphanumeric passwords. Most sites require a minimum length, and to include at least one of the following: Upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Longer passwords increase complexity, thereby making them more secure. It’s recommended that passwords should be at least 8 characters. For more sensitive information, like your bank accounts, passwords should be 12 or more.
- Avoid common patterns. To meet alphanumeric requirements, common patterns emerge. To protect yourself, you should avoid these standard formats when selecting a password:
- One uppercase, five lowercase, and 3 digits (example: Banana123)
- One uppercase, six lowercase, and 2 digits (example: Bananas12)
- One uppercase, three lowercase, and 5 digits (example: Bana12345)
- Recycling passwords. Due to the number of passwords you will be required to make in your lifetime, many of us may fall into the trap of using the same password multiple times. However, this diminishes the benefit of using a strong password. Additionally, once that password becomes compromised, the impact is amplified.
- Avoid using dictionary words (and names). This includes compounds of multiple words. According to the Department of Homeland Security, one solution could be to replace letters with numbers or symbols. For example, ILoveGermanShepards would become !Lov3gErm8nshepHard$. This helps make passwords more complex.
- Two-factor authentication. This requires a cell phone or email to verify identification in addition to the password. It adds another layer of protection against hackers logging in with a stolen password.
Why don’t more people use secure passwords? It’s hard to remember a 12-character password that is truly random and contains numbers, symbols, and upper- and lowercase letters. Also, even though many websites will rank your password strength, most will still let you proceed even after they deem it “weak.” To help you create and remember stronger passwords, check out these two methods.
Method #1: Use a sentence
Song lyrics, a favorite quote, or a string of words may be easier to remember. Use just the first letter of every word and switch between upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to create a complex password (see Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World example below).
Lyrics: I hear babies crying, I watch them grow / They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know / And I think to myself, ‘What a wonderful world.’
Simple, right? Other options could be a birthday or anniversary, like Don’t forget, John was born on January 1st becomes d’F,jwboJ1st.
Method #2: Make patterns on your keyboard
For visual people, using shapes and patterns could be easier. For example, you could use your initials or shapes to create a pattern of numbers, symbols, and letters for your password. The key is to start in different parts of the keyboard—this will ensure your password is random even if you use the same “shape” for multiple passwords.
There isn’t a foolproof way to prevent hackers from gaining access to your data or your identity. However, by using these tips and tricks, you could drastically reduce your risk.