You might be surprised how quickly even a strong password can be cracked. Nothing is foolproof regarding password security; even the most cautious people sometimes have their passwords broken. However, some habits can strengthen your password, so you have better safeguards for your online accounts.
What Makes a Good Password?
A good password shares a few different features: it’s unique but doesn’t use personally identifiable information. It’s long, uses multiple characters, and doesn’t only use a single word.
Modern password requirements on websites are usually the bare minimum and not indicative of what actually makes a good password. How many sites only require letters, numbers, and eight characters? Too many, especially for people who care about password security.
Taking the time to craft great passwords and change them regularly will help you keep your information more secure and potentially save you from unwanted intrusions.
You mustn’t use personal information in passwords. While people you don’t know are more likely to target your accounts, it’s still giving anyone who chooses to and has information about you a head start. There’s no reason to tie your password closely to your personal life.
Consider how much information about most people is publicly available online. You can get people’s addresses, phone numbers, relatives, and past jobs just off certain databases. People can get information from your social media, message board posts, and other sites with a quick search of your name. No matter how careful you are, there’s no guarantee that some information isn’t available.
Keep personal information out of your passwords. You can choose things that have meaning, but some of the best passwords involve just coming up with something new.
Use Phrases, Not Single Words
Consider using a phrase instead of a single word when crafting a password. Many people choose a single word with a few numbers, making it easy for people to guess if they can identify the things, you’re likely to use. It’s also easier for someone to remember your password if they look over your shoulder as you type.
Phrases are beneficial because they help you remember the password more quickly with time. Having a password that says “T1gersBrin9S@up4D1nner” is silly and doesn’t relate to anything – but sometimes funny things are easier to remember than everyday things. You can also use phrases to have fun with your passwords.
Mix the Characters You Use
Check out the example password above, and you can see that it isn’t just made up of letters. There are characters other than numbers there too. That’s because mixing letters, numbers, and symbols is one of the best ways to make your password more secure.
Think of it this way: if you have to put three colors in the correct order (and can use repeating colors), there are far fewer combinations than there would be if you had six colors.
Adding numbers and characters to the alphabet options makes your password more secure simply because there are more characters to use.
Try mixing in numbers and characters to your passwords. You don’t need to eschew letters altogether, and you’ll still have a much stronger password.
Use Uncommon Words
There are a lot of words that people reuse in passwords. The word password itself is one of them. Many also use sequential numbers, certain mixes of letters and numbers like abc123, or popular words like love.
Think outside the box when you create a password. If it’s one of the first things that come to mind, then mix it and choose something else. Use niche words from interests or hobbies that most people wouldn’t think of, for example. You could even select a random word from the dictionary and design a phrase around it.
Longer is Better
It’s understandable to prefer short passwords. They’re easier to remember and input and generally require less thought when creating them. Most of the common passwords on the internet are ten characters are less. It makes sense when you consider the minimum password length for many websites is even shorter than that.
However, short passwords aren’t the best for security. That’s one reason why phrases are an excellent approach to passwords. More characters in your password simply make it harder to crack.
It’s the same logic as using characters other than letters. Having more to guess just takes longer than having to guess less. Consider changing up your passwords and going for longer with the new ones if you haven’t switched them in a while.
Another thing that’s great for passwords is changing them regularly. Things get leaked, and the longer your password is active, the more likely you’ll have it stolen. Switching it periodically is just good password management.
Many experts say passwords should be changed every three months. Creating a reminder in your calendar or pairing it with another task you do quarterly can help you remember and make it a part of your routine.
How Can I Keep My Accounts Safe With My Passwords?
You can do a few things to help keep your accounts safer online.
Use a Different Password for Each Site
Don’t reuse your passwords. It isn’t good if someone gets access to your online Visa account, but the problems multiply if they can also use the same password to access your other accounts.
It can be a bit of a pain but choose different passwords for each site. You’re saving yourself trouble down the road.
Use a Password Manager
Using a password manager can make a big difference in how many passwords you actually have to remember. You enter your username and password into a password manager. It encrypts a database of your passwords, and you assign a master password. Once this is done, you only have to use the master password to access any of your connected accounts.
The great thing about this is your password on each site can be long, complicated, and full of mixed characters. You’ll get the benefits of a unique password that’s long and complex without having to memorize multiple passwords. When you have many accounts to access, this is a great way to be security-conscious and still have an easy time logging in.
If you decide to use a password manager, look for a dedicated password manager rather than one provided by your browser. Read reviews and check out the features each offers before choosing one and setting it up.
Don’t Share or Write Down Passwords
It can be tempting to write down a password, so you have easy access to it without having to remember it. However, writing it down gives people another way to figure out your password and access your online content. Keep it in your head and not on a notepad.
It would be best if you also didn’t share passwords with people. While it can be a bit unrealistic to tell someone to never share any passwords with another human being, you should attempt to limit the number of people who have your passwords. If your passwords are repeated or share common characteristics, you may also reveal enough for the person you share the password with to access another account.