It seems like we hear of a new hack every day that puts our sensitive information at risk. Do you have a secure password up to the task of preventing hacks into your sensitive data?
What is your password style?
Does one of these sound like you:
- I’ve used the same password for 20 years with only a few modifications.
- I only change my password when forced to. e.g. if a website forces a password change due to a security risk.
- I always include personal information in my password, such as my name, date of birth or children’s names.
- I use really secure passwords but keep them written on a piece of paper in my wallet/purse/desk.
- I have the same password on at least 5 accounts.
Many of are guilty of having one or more of the above styles. Before we get into creating an easy-to-remember, yet secure password let’s review what we do NOT want to do in our passwords.
What NOT to Do to When Creating a Secure Password
- Do not use words you can find in the dictionary.
- Do not use personal information.
- Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Do not create short, easy-to-hack passwords. 8 characters should be your absolute minimum. (the longer the better)
- Do not write the password down in an unsecure location. (e.g. a post-it note that you put in your wallet)
- Do not keep the password the same for a long time.
What You SHOULD Do to Create a Secure Password
- Do use upper and lowercase letters e.g. HhAa.
- Do use numbers in your password.
- Do use special characters in your password e.g. [email protected]#.
- Do use numbers and special characters within the password (not just at the ends. e.g. Password1! vs [email protected]).
Keys to Creating a Secure Password That You Will Remember
We often find it easier to recall passwords that are tied to memories. Consider using some of the following inspiration when creating a secure password:
- your favorites
- memorable vacations
- entertainment likes: books, movies, tv shows, magazines
- any strong memory
- wedding details
Now let’s turn this inspiration into a secure password.
Let’s start with our favorite color:
Start with the phrase. –> I Love Purple
First off we substitute a heart emoticon for the word ‘Love’.
I + <3 + Purple
Secondly, since “purple” can be found in the dictionary change at least one letter into a number or special character.
I + <3 + Purp!e
Final Password: I<3Purp!e
You will always remember what your favorite color is so this becomes an easy to recall secure password.
Let’s try this again with a TV Show we like, The Big Bang Theory. Let’s add a character from the show into this password and create a phrase using the first character of each word.
My favorite Big Bang Theory character is Sheldon.
M + F + B + B +T + C + I + S
Next, let’s change the casing to match what it would be in a real sentence.
M + f + B + B +T + c + i + S
Last, we should add a special character and a number.
M+ f + B + ! +T + c + 1 + S
Final password: MfB!Tc1S
Looking at the above password, it doesn’t seem that memorable; however when you say the passphrase, it will be easy to recall. You used an exclamation mark for ‘Bang’ and the number one is to make it more secure.
If you regularly use the same types of swaps for numbers and special characters they will be easier to recall. e.g. for an l or i use a 1 or !.
Let’s do one last example. You’ll notice wedding details was included in the inspiration list. But you’ll recall that you don’t want to use personal information, so we want to use a particularly strong memory associated with your wedding. An easy choice would be to use your wedding party.
Say these were the people in my wedding party: Tom, Charlie, Kent, David, Gloria, Julie, Anna and Mary
First let’s put the first letter from all of those names together.
T + C + K + D + G + J + A + M
Second let’s add in a special character, in this case let’s separate the men’s names from the women’s.
T + C + K + D + # + G + J + A + M
Now we need a number. An easy to remember number would be the month, date or year of your wedding. All 3 split out would make it the most complicated (note: this is personal info but we are using it in a way that makes it hard to hack).
mm + T + C + K + D + # + dd + G + J + A + M + yy
Let’s put in the real numbers now and see the password: 01TCKD#01GJAM00
This is a pretty secure password already but let’s change up the letter casing by alternating upper and lowercase letters.
Final Password: 01TcKd#01GjAm00
Now it’s your turn. Practice making some secure passwords from favorites or memories out of the inspiration list.
Note: it’s never a bad idea to use a password storage application, even when you create secure passwords that you’ll always remember. We all have so many online accounts that remembering which password goes with which account can be a challenge.
Featured photo credit: 8 Levers of Triplicane / C/N N/G via flickr.com