How to Choose a Better Password
If you’re addicted to the Internet like I am, chances are your life is full of passwords.
Passwords for social networking accounts, bank accounts, frequent-flyer accounts, daily deal accounts — the list goes on and on.
With so many accounts, of course, comes the increased possibility of being hacked, and a successful hack can make you feel violated and even leave you broke.
So to help you avoid the embarrassment and hassle of a hack, here are a few tips on how to choose a better password. (See also: Wise Bread's Guide to Identity Theft Prevention)
What Not to Do When Choosing a Password
I’ll get to the best ways to fortify your accounts with a solid password in a minute, but first we need to cover those things that you should never do.
When creating a password, NEVER:
- Use only a word. Any real word is off limits. If it’s in the dictionary, don’t use it.
- Use your user name or real name. That’s just common sense. Also avoid using the name of another person or pet in your life. If the hacker is someone you know, these are the first words he or she will use to try to gain access to your information.
- Only put a digit in front or behind a password comprised of a real word thinking that you’ve changed the game. That won’t help you; hackers are on to that trick, too.
- Spell any of the off-limits words in reverse to beat the system. You won’t.
What to Do When Choosing a Password
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to establish a password that’s nearly impenetrable. Here are some ways to create one that most hacking programs can’t crack.
Use a combination of the following techniques to create a strong password:
- Use at least eight characters — a combination of numbers, upper- and lower-case letters, and punctuation marks. More characters is always better.
- Shorten a favorite (but not famous) movie quote or song title to only the first letter of each word in the quote or title. For example, change the "Casablanca" quote “Here's lookin' at you, kid” into HLAYK. (Although, again, using something less famous is better.) To further protect it, add a series of number to the end of it, perhaps the year “Casablanca” was released — 1942. You also can choose to lowercase some of the letters, such as the A. The final password would be HLaYK1942. To make it ever stronger, replace the A with the @ symbol to create the password HL@YK1942.
- Throw a punctuation mark into the middle of a word. Example: Wise$Bread.
- Use a word you like and can remember, then remove the vowels and replace them with numbers or punctuation marks.
- Misspell a word in your password on purpose.
- Use your imagination to come up with a password that has no significance in the real world. Just make sure you can remember it.
Additional Tips for Keeping Your Password Safe
Once you have that password created, keep it safe by following these suggestions:
- Never save a file on your computer containing your passwords. That’s just asking for trouble. If you must, write the password on a piece of paper and lock it in a safe. It’s best, however, to never write it down — which is why it’s important to choose a password you’ll remember.
- Never give your password to anyone for any reason. No one needs to know your password. If someone wants it, it’s for nefarious purposes. You can count on that.
- Never respond to an email requesting your password, even if the email claims to be from someone of authority. Your respective networks will NEVER contact you via e-mail asking for your password information.
- Try using a password management tool such as LastPass or KeepPass. Not only do they increase your level of security, they also simply your life by requiring that you only remember one password.
How did you create your password? Does it adhere to these tips? Let me know in the comments below.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Some advice in this article has been updated.