6 Tips for Creating a Strong Password

Internet safety is more important than ever. Information is all over the internet; in your Gmail account, your Facebook account, especially when online shopping and banking. You might have heard this a million times, and it’s still true: a strong online password will help limit the odds of your information being hacked or stolen.

We’ll help you create a strong password that’s definitely different from everyone else’s and that’s not on the most used passwords list. We know it’s tempting to use 12345, 1password, and iloveyou, but come on. You’re more creative than that. Here are six tips for creating better passwords.

1. Avoid common word combinations

You need to create a password that is far from what people commonly use. It also shouldn’t be a common word combination. Also, make sure to avoid using anything that obviously relates to you, like the names of your children, pets, or hometown. If someone who knows you can easily guess it, then it’s not strong enough. Staying away from the obvious will keep your information more secure.

Let’s say you’re creating a Google account. In this case, you set your password to bakingcookies. While it seems like a good password from the outside, since it has nothing to do with Gmail or password1 or qwerty, it might have everything to do with you. If the word combination is common or easy to guess, it’s not going to keep your information safe from hackers determined to steal it.

2. Create longer passwords

No more super short passwords. We know you like to keep things convenient. But seriously, abcd just isn’t going to cut it. Thankfully, most websites require a minimum of eight characters for a password. (Hint, websites do this for a reason.) Keep your passwords above eight characters and it will dramatically decrease your chances of being hacked.

If you’re worried you’ll forget your long, random password, we have a couple tips for making it memorable.

First, you can string together complex, unrelated words. While your bakingcookies password from before is easy to guess, something like credibleorangutanorchestra will be much harder for hackers to crack. Don’t forget to mix in some numbers, symbols, and capital letters.

Our next trick takes a couple steps, but it will be worth it. First, come up with a sentence that you’ll remember. Then, generate a password out of it. You can use the first letter or two of each word of the sentence to generate a password that looks randomized to others but is still memorable to you.

For example, your sentence might be, “I love to bake cookies with my grandma on Sundays.” This would help you remember your password: ILotoBaCowimyGronSu.

3. Stop reusing your old passwords

Recycling your previous passwords is one of the biggest password security mistakes. You know how some school websites, work programs, and emails outlets make you change your password after a certain period of time? Yep. You might think it’s smart to consistently change between two of the same passwords, but it’s actually not.

The more you reuse your old passwords, the more likely it is that you’ll be hacked. Whenever you get that notification email that it’s time to change your password, change it to something new and move away from your old one. As long as you write it down in your handy notebook or use your password manager, you won’t need to worry about forgetting it.

4. Use a password generator

You can skip tips one through three entirely by using a password generator. Most password manager programs include a password generator or your browser may automatically suggest a generated password for you.

Password generators work by combining letters, numbers, and symbols together to create passwords that are nearly impossible to guess. If you don’t want the stress of coming up with your own password, you can’t go wrong using a generated password from a trusted program.

You still need to use a different password for every site and account, even if it is randomly generated.

5. Invest in a reliable password manager

There are plenty of password management systems available that can help keep track of all your passwords for you. 1Password or LastPass are just two popular ones to check out. It’s important to use a password manager you can trust. No one wants to provide all of their passwords to a website that can easily be hacked (#irony).

The great thing about LastPass is it uses AES 256-bit encryption software, which is the same software many VPNs (virtual private networks) use to keep personal information from being stolen. This encryption software adds layers of extra security so that your passwords are kept safe.

6. Write your passwords down in a secure location

Maybe you heard somewhere that writing your passwords down isn’t smart. But actually, keeping your passwords together in a safe place is a great way to remember them (especially when you create long ones that are more secure).

If you’re using a password manager, then you’ll only need to write down your master password, so you can use these methods together. Writing them on a sticky note that you’ll lose by next week isn’t a smart idea. But writing your passwords in a designated notebook that stays hidden in an important drawer or a home safe is a great way to go.

Sources

1. Clifford Colby and Sharon Profis, CNET, “9 Rules For Strong Passwords: How to Create and Remember Your Login Credentials,” August 6, 2020. Accessed November 16, 2020.

2. Grey Media Group, “National Password Day: How to Make Your Accounts Safer,” May 7, 2020. Accessed November 16, 2020.