Written by: Jay H.
The importance of strong passwords has been reiterated. Websites tell you to add capitalizations, special characters, and extra letters to your passwords. However, it isn’t enough to use one strong password everywhere. If a data leak happens, hackers could have access to your entire digital life, including financial and personal information.
Elements Of A Strong Password
So, what makes a password strong? Well, key aspects include length, a mix of capitalized and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Thankfully, many websites require you to create passwords that are strong to a certain degree.
Weak Password Characteristics
Millions of users are risking their accounts with weak passwords. Then, what makes them so easy to crack? Here are some examples:
- It’s easy to link to you. For example, if your password is your last name and your birth year – Smith1965 – someone who knows you well could easily guess it.
- It’s one of the most commonly-used passwords. According to Safety Detectives, the top-three most used passwords worldwide are 123456, password, and 123456789. These types of passwords, along with common keyboard patterns such as ‘qwerty ‘ or phrases such as ‘superman,’ are among the first hackers use when trying to guess passwords.
- It’s short and uses obvious substitutions. The password “S0cc0r” isn’t secure because it’s both short, and replacing the letter o with the number 0 is easy to decipher.
- It’s been leaked. If your passwords have been exposed in a data leak and you haven’t changed them, your accounts are easily susceptible to breaches. A good tool for checking for password compromises is Have I Been Pwned.
- It’s the default password. Some websites and devices, such as modems, come with default passwords. If you haven’t changed these passwords, you’re at significant risk.
Creating a Password That’s Strong And Unique
The trick to creating passwords that are strong and unique is to make something easy for you to remember but hard for anyone else to guess. However, as the average person has dozens of accounts, it isn’t feasible to expect them to memorize all of their passwords. This is why we recommend you use a password manager (with a strong master password!). These managers can create and remember strong and unique passwords for you.
If you want to create strong passwords that you will remember, here are some methods:
- Use a sentence you will remember, modified. If you graduated from high school in 1989 from Riverside High School, you could make a password out of that. For instance, taking the first two characters out of the sentence “I graduated in 1989 from Riverside High School”, you would end up with “Igrin19frRiHiSc”. To anyone else, this sentence is complete gibberish, but you understand it completely. Adding more symbols, numbers, and capitalized letters scrambled around would make it even more secure.
- Combine random words. To do this method, take words that don’t make sense together and make a passphrase from them. For instance, “dishcloth mountain yen smirking” is a random passphrase. The words don’t make sense together, but memorizing them is much easier than a completely gibberish password. For even more security, adding rules such as replacing every fifth character with “$” and “8” alternating and capitalizing every third letter would help. Then, you’re left with “diSh$LotH8oUnt$inYe8SmiR$iNg”. Although it is complex, it follows patterns easier to remember and harder to crack.
- Use a password manager. It’s virtually impossible to have strong and unique passwords for every account and remember them. That’s why we recommend using a password manager to generate and store your passwords for you. Therefore, you only need to know the master password to log into your password manager, letting you maintain good passwords without having to remember them.
Keep in mind, if you use the same password everywhere or if your passwords are leaked, your accounts are vulnerable regardless of their strength. So, make sure you use unique, strong passwords and stay knowledgeable about password breaches that may happen.
To read more about staying safe online, check out our other cybersecurity posts.
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