Last update: 08.12.2019
We’re always horrified by the fact that people still use things like “12345678” or “qwerty” as their passwords. Even worse, most people just use the word “password”.
Want to up your password game and avoid becoming the laughingstock of hackers? This guide on how to create strong passwords will help you keep your accounts secure.
Why most passwords are easy to crack
Did you know that 73% of Internet users use the same password across many different sites/accounts? This is one of the main mistakes that has led to escalated cases of security breaches in both personal and corporate accounts. And if it happens that you’re hacked, you need to change all your passwords.
Seriously, change them ALL.
A hacker could use your compromised passwords elsewhere. Make sure to keep reading to learn how to create a strong password.
First and foremost, though, there’s something you need to understand. The enemy is not a masked hooligan breaking into your IT office or someone trying to figure out your password through brute force.
No, these hackers use sophisticated and high-tech programs or software to run through a huge database of character combinations that are commonly used as passwords.
Now, do you see why you need to know how to create a strong password?
How to strengthen your password
One of the most frequently asked questions on Google is: “What is a strong password?”.
Some people might tell you that all it takes is a long string of words. However, according to tech experts, it’s a combination of characters that are immune to human guesswork and are difficult for computer programs to detect.
A strong password has to include numbers, letters, and symbols.
The best words to use are those not found in a dictionary.
How to create a strong password
Most IT systems require the use of strong passcodes before allowing you to sign up.
- To add on to a strong password definition, it is important to include at least six characters. The more characters you have, the stronger your password.
- Some sites allow you to use symbols like $, *, &, @, ^, and so on. Use them.
- Typically, passwords are case sensitive, hence you need to include both lowercase and uppercase letters.
Newer approaches to security like biometric inputs guarantee that only authorized individuals can access the system.
A 4-character combination like 4567 is pretty easy to guess and hackers could use it to invade your system. On the other hand, something like 4five67& is not easy to guess, making it a much better choice. Even though strong passwords protect IT systems and personal databases, there are newer approaches to security like biometric inputs which guarantee that only authorized individuals can access the systems.
Now, let’s take a look at some tips for securing your online accounts.
#1 Use multifactor authentication (MFA)
Multifactor authentication is a cybersecurity technique that adds an extra layer of security, which is very hard for cybercriminals to crack. It uses multiple user verification methods at the same time for logging in or any other online transaction e.g. one-time passwords, IP address restriction, and client certificates. If implemented properly, these extra layers can protect your resources even when a hacker has obtained your password. It is an effective method of minimizing cyber theft and phishing through email.
#2 Use a password manager
If you have a relatively high number of passwords and remembering each of them would be a cumbersome thing for you to do, you can simply have your computer store passwords for you.
One of the best password management apps in the industry is 1Password. It can help you create much stronger passwords with a click of a button. In addition to storing them in an encrypted database, 1Password also tells you how safe your combination of characters is. Moreover, it will alert you if a hacker ever tries to invade your system and whether your data has been compromised.
#3 A longer phrase is more secure
Did you know that the length of your password is more important than its complexity? If you have a 12 to 15-character long password, any hacker will find it incredibly hard to crack it or guess it. However, don’t fall into the trap of combining pop culture references or simple patterns simply for length. The best way is to mix letters, numbers, and symbols. For instance, instead of ‘Iloveyouforever’, use IL0v3y0u4eva.
Passphrases are great ideas for boosting your password length. You will also be able to memorize them more easily. Ideally, your password should transform from a word to a sentence, for example ‘I don’t feel like working’. One caution though – avoid commonplace phrases. Be creative and come up with a phrase that is nonsensical so that no one else could think of it such as ‘Barack Obama the Prime Minister of China’.
#4 Use padding to strengthen your passwords
Padding your password is not about changing what you already have but instead making it stronger by adding extra modifications. Just start with a simple code like ‘my dog is Tommy’ and add extra characters at the end. Through padding, you can come up with something like “MydogisTommy54*B>>”. Keep in mind that you can use a space too if you feel like it. While the password hasn’t become overly complex to remember, you have increased the length by 6 characters making it more difficult for hackers to crack.
#5 Formulas can help you create strong passwords
A formula adds to the complexity of your password, its length, and separation. The idea is to use a personal system, rule, or formula that will help you create a memorable and safe password. It can be as complex as you like.
For example, ‘Ccmfrcc2pir’ seems like total nonsense and it would be very hard to crack. But it is a contracted formula – Circumference of a circle = 2*pi*r, also making it very easy to recall when you need to enter it.
By including a few characters to the above password, you can easily remember it e.g. Ccmfrcc=2Pi*r. That gives you a stronger passcode with letters in uppercase and lowercase, symbols, and numbers which are easy to remember. If you want to make the password specific to a certain website, say fashionista.com, a good idea would be to incorporate the site’s name into the core phrase e.g. Ccmfrcc=2Pi*rfashion. This way, you can create unique passwords with the same formula.
#6 Stop changing your passwords
The notion that passwords must be changed every three months is a myth. As long as you have a strong password, you don’t really need to change anything. The last thing you want is to forget your password. Keep in mind that the more often you change it, the less likely you are to remember. If you keep changing patterns at the end of your password, you will be just making things easier for hackers.
Therefore, if anyone has advised you to change passwords regularly, take it with a grain of salt. Unless you have shared your login details with someone or your account has been hacked, there is no real need to make a change. Otherwise, regularly changing it is not as helpful as many people think.
#7 Don’t let hackers intercept your password
If you don’t secure your connection, even your strongest passwords can be intercepted by hackers. All it takes is connecting to your account via public wifi in a café.
Since public wifi connections are rarely secure, hackers can intercept your communications and mount man-in-the-middle attacks from across the coffee shop to steal your passwords as soon as you try to log into your favorite web service.
To avoid getting your password intercepted, you should encrypt your online traffic with a VPN. In that case, all the hacker will intercept is mountains of encrypted gibberish that will take them millions of years to decipher. This top-rated VPN
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From a simple user standpoint, a strong password is the first line of defense against cybercriminals.
You must not share your password with anybody, even close friends. It might happen that they might accidentally pass it to others or simply become your ex-friend and abuse that knowledge.
Also, refrain from using the same password or passphrase in multiple sites as this would make it easier for someone to break into all your accounts at once to steal valuable information, potentially by using a site with lower security standards to get the password and then use it in even the safest sites.