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How to create – and remember – strong passwords

Strong passwords are fundamental to resisting ever-present cyber security threats. A novel, long series of letters, numbers and signs is hard to crack, but often hard to remember. Here are some easy-to-follow rules.

What makes a strong password?

We are used to being asked to invent complex passwords for websites and online apps. Sure “Afk9Mcn#eD34fl8m$aDEo2” would be nearly impossible crack, but good luck committing this to memory, let alone typing it correctly. The temptation is to take the easy route of using a simple password we’ve used previously.

How to create and build a password

Ideally, your passwords will:

  • Have 12 characters or more
  • Feature both upper and lower-case letters, as well as numbers and symbols.
  • Avoid personal information that others might know or could find out. Nicknames, your date of birth, pets’ names and so on can often be gleaned online by determined, resourceful hackers.
  • Avoid simple words, sentences and patterns.

“Kc&t2tah2ca5P” meets these requirements, but how to remember a formulation of this complexity? This code word is based on the sentence “keep calm and try to think about how to create a strong password”, but you can use any memorable quotes, song lyrics, or phrases with at least a dozen words. Take the first character from each word to get “Kcatttahtcasp”, then replace certain letters with numbers and symbols. S becomes 5, the “and” becomes &, and the “to” becomes 2. Then capitalise the first and last letters. Here are some alternatives to consider:

 

symbol caracter association

How else to keep your account safe

Once you have developed strong passwords you will need to look after them.

  • Keep them private by avoiding writing them down, and never tell anyone about how you build your passwords.
  • If you have trouble remembering, consider purchasing a password management application.
  • Avoid using the same password on different sites as this would enable successful hackers to seek to log on to your other accounts. Be particularly careful with transactional websites such as your online bank, PayPal, Ebay, Amazon, and the rest.
  • Change your passwords regularly to add an extra level of security .

No password is completely unbreakable if an experienced, persistent hacker using sophisticated tools gets to work. However, following these tips would make their job much more complicated, and encourage them to seek another victim.

The basics are simple: use long combinations of letters, numbers and symbols without including personal information and common words. Don’t share your passwords. Use a different password for each site, and change your passwords regularly.

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