10 tips for creating strong passwords

Strong passwords

A strong password is essential for keeping your personal information safe online. Here’s how to create strong and easy-to-remember passwords.

Tip 1 Use multiple passwords. Don’t use the same password for every online account you have. It’s like using the same key to lock your house, car and office. If one password is hacked, all of your accounts will be vulnerable.

Tip 2  Don’t use weak passwords. Avoid using a password that is the same as your username, or has any personal information such as your date of birth or mother’s maiden name.

Tip 3  Password length. Aim for a password with 10 characters or more in length. The more characters in a password the better, as this will slow down any attempt to crack the password by hackers.

Tip 4  Password strength. A strong password is a combination of characters, numbers and symbols. Use a mix of each of the following in your password:

  • Lower case alphabet letters
  • Upper case alphabet letters
  • Numbers
  • Special characters or symbols

Tip 5  Use a memorable phrase. You can use a phrase or saying to help you create a secure password that’s easy to remember. For example, try creating a password from something such as the first letter of each word in a line from a phrase, book, poem, or favourite song. For example, the Bob Dylan song ‘Time’s They Are A Changing’ could be turned into the password ‘TtaAc’, while The Three Musketeers famous motto ‘One for All and All for One’ by Alexandre Dumas could create the password ’14A&A41dumaS’.

Tip 6  Change your passwords regularly. While it takes a little effort, it’s a good idea to change the passwords for all your accounts every 6 months.

Tip 7  Use your passwords only on your computer. Never enter your password on a public computer. Hackers use key loggers to log all the key strokes on a system, capturing everything you type including the passwords. Even on computers you completely trust, don’t type your password while someone else is looking over your shoulder – keep your password to yourself.

Tip 8  Don’t set your browser to remember your passwords. Never use the ‘Remember me’ or ‘Remember password’ feature of your web browser on a computer that doesn’t belong to you. Once saved, passwords are easily viewable by anyone with access to your computer. If you decide to let your browser save them on your home computer, look to see if it offers a master password. Firefox, for example, lets you set a master password so that all your passwords for various websites and accounts are protected from prying eyes.

Tip 9  Never email your password. This puts your password at risk from identity thieves. Be careful of phishing scams – hoax emails that looks like they come from a bank or building society –that ask you to email, or click on a link to enter, your username and password. Reputable companies never send emails directly requesting sensitive account details. If in doubt, pick up the phone and check directly with them. The best thing to do is delete suspicious emails, and avoid visiting suspicious websites.

Tip 10  Make your password reset answer unguessable. You may think that you’ve created a super-strong password that can’t be hacked, but your sensitive personal information is still at risk if someone else can change that password using the password reset function. Often, it’s much easier to crack the reset question on someone’s account than the actual password. So, when asked for your mother’s maiden name, your birthplace or your pet’s name, don’t use truthful answers. Instead, make up a name or answer that only you will know.

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