Tips for Creating Safe Passwords

Your laptop and other electronic devices are constantly under attack, even if you don’t know it. Hackers will go to great lengths to access your computer, but the easiest way for them to break in and install malicious software is by cracking your password. The simpler the password (simple meaning, easy for you to remember), the easier it is to be hacked.

As a result, to protect yourself, you need both a strong password—that means not using the word “Password”—and one that you won’t easily forget.
What constitutes a strong password? Generally speaking, it includes most or all of the following:

  • Must be at least eight characters long
  • Doesn’t include your user name, real name or the name of your business
  • Doesn’t contain a word found in the dictionary

Strong passwords are comprised of these different categories:

  • Uppercase letters (J, K, L, etc.)
  • Lowercase letters (c, d, e, etc.)
  • Numbers (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9)
  • Symbols found on your keyboard (#$*&=+, etc.)

Creating a password that incorporates these elements significantly increases the odds of protection in your favor. (Actually, you should be using different passwords for different devices.)

In addition to coming up with difficult-to-crack passwords, how can you hope to remember them all? Try these tips:

  • Link your password to a favorite sport or pastime. For example, “I’m a great quarterback” could be IMagr8TQb.
  • Take a memorable phrase and replace letters or words with numbers, symbols or deliberate misspellings, as in “My wedding anniversary is June 4, 2002,” which now becomes MWa4/6/02.
  • Make up an acronym based on an easy-to-remember bit of information. “The earth is round” becomes TeRthizO.

Another effective strategy is the use of passwords that are simple for you to remember, but hard for others to decipher. For example, use the initial of each word in “My first dog was a Doberman Pincher” to create M1stDwaDP.

Try substituting a symbol for a letter or word (“1” instead of “L”, “&” instead of “and”) as part of a memorable phrase, such as “Always look for the silver lining” (A14t$1vlyeng).

Other helpful tips:

  • Make up a compound word by combining three small words, as in “Wakeme@12pM” or “Mydog8thOmeWrk.”
  • Combine the first letters of the words in a sentence. “I have to stay late at work tonight” becomes “Ihtsl@Wt.”
  • Jot down hints to remind you of your password, but don’t write the actual password.

Finally, to help ensure the strength and sanctity of your passwords, follow the one cardinal rule every expert strongly advises: Don’t give out the password to anyone. A spouse or good friend can inadvertently let the password slip or, in a worst-case scenario, can become an ex-spouse or ex-friend with intent to wreak havoc in your life.

The best and easiest-to-remember passwords carry some special significance to the user, yet are difficult if not impossible for strangers to uncover. Sometimes a funny phrase or sentence is hard to forget, but in any case, create passwords that incorporate the tips listed above and that are relevant to your life and interests. The contents of your laptop and other devices will be far safer as a result.


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