What do dating and strong passwords have in common?
Passwords are a pain in the rear but they’re critical to preserving our digital security. Sadly, not every one we meet online, or in person, has our best interests at heart. Strong passwords provide a measure of security when meeting and communicating with folks online.
How many times have you said or thought, “but I don’t have any personal information on my phone, laptop, iPad, or fitness tracker? I don’t have anything of value. I’m an open book; I don’t have anything to hide.”
You might be surprised at just how much personal information a hacker can glean from your humble device. Do you have contacts stored on your phone, a weather app, Facebook, Instagram, pictures, or an email account?
If so, you’re a delicious catch for a phisher.
What makes a password strong?
A strong password is:
- Longer than 12 characters (16 is better)
- A mix of symbols, numbers, and upper and lower case letters
- An uncommon blend of words
Tell me more
In general, longer passwords are harder to guess. Forty characters would be a pain to type over and over, and hackers are pros at quickly cracking even the best six-character passwords. So, 12-16 characters are a happy medium.
Next, the mix of possible characters is vital. Numbers alone offer only ten possibilities for each character. Think 123456.
When you mix numbers, upper and lower case letters, and symbols, there are 94 possibilities for each character—big difference.
Finally, using a single common word or distinct combination of words as your password is just plain wrong.
For example, seahawks is a weak password, and gohawks isn’t much better.
How could we make this word combination a better password?
For starters, let increase the character count to 16 by adding some numbers. Perhaps, goseahawks2020. That’s only 14 characters, let’s make it longer.
How about adding a symbol and a new number to make the password goseahawks#12020?
Better, but still not great.
Let’s capitalize a few letters, turn the “o” in go into a zero, replaced the “e” with a three, and use another symbol to break up the apparent date of 2020.
The new password looks like this: G0S3ahawKs#120!20
Now we’re on the right track!
Based on my password security test, this one will keep the bad guys (or girls) guessing for trillions of years.
If you see your password here, change it immediately!
We’re off to a good start, but there’s an even better alternative.
Let’s create a passphrase that’s easy for YOU to remember, but difficult for a hacker to break.
There are two ways to do this:
- Random Words
To create a sentence-based password, let’s start with a line from one of your favorite songs or quotes.
I like the Beatles, so I will use:
“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away; Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.“
To create a password, I will use the first letter of each word and add a number, a symbol, and a capital letter.
Let’s run this through the password tester.
29 quadrillion years looks good to me!
To create a password from random words, try this:
Start with a string of random words that evoke a memorable picture in your mind.
correct horse battery staple
Capitalize the first letter of each word, change the spaces to symbols, add a number, and you get:
Both methods create equally strong passwords.
Pick the system that is easiest for you to remember and type.
Need more help?
Try this Random password generator
Use a unique password for every account
A data breach on one account, say Facebook, could compromise other accounts if they share the same password.
Losing your bank account could cost you real money as well as the time to unravel the maze of identity theft.
Invest in password manager software
Check out this article on password managers