Five Practices for a Strong Password
Fact: no password is unbreakable. In theory, any password can be cracked given the right software; enough computing time and the money to pay for them. If someone REALLY wants to break into your accounts, they can.
But most of the bad guys you will encounter (hackers, nosy employees, distrustful business partners and curious kids) are not that hard to keep out.
1. Mix’em Up! When creating a password use mixture of characters like upper-case, lower-case letters(A-Z or a-z), numbers and special symbols such as: !,@,#,$,%,^,&,*,= , etc.
2. Psst…can you keep it a secret? Your passwords must be kept a secret. So MEMORIZE them! Don’t write them down on the back of your bank card, credit card or on a note stuck on your computer monitor. Tips for properly storing your passwords are covered more thoroughly later on in this article.
3. The more the merrier. Use multiple passwords. You should have one for each individual account. Yes, I know it’s a drag but you use the same over and over, you run the risk of a bad guy (a hacker or a jealous former lover) discovering it and running amok through all your accounts. Also take special care to use your strongest passwords on your more critical or valuable applications and accounts.
4. Size does matter… Bigger is better, for passwords anyway. For minimum security, the experts recommend a password be at least six characters long. For business use or financial accounts I would go up to seven or eight for more bangs for the buck. One or two extra keystrokes add a few million more combinations a cracking program has to work through.
5. Do it frequently. Change your passwords often. You should alter all critical passwords every six months or once a year at a minimum or non critical things. More every 90 days if it is critical.
So what is critical? Your money market accounts should be more critical to you then your membership to Critters Online! Some systems prompt you when change; others you have to remember and manually change it. Either way, do it frequently.
Additional Strong Password Tips
The science of creating strong passwords or any secret code for that matter has always been plagued with this problem: how to make it easy to remember (and decode) but difficult break.
A common way to design a strong password is to use a phrase cipher. For example, take the phrase, “Girls who wear glasses don’t get passes.” To create a password from this, use the first letter from each word. Then change one or more characters into an upper or lower case letter.
For added security you can add a numbers and/or special symbol. A few sample passwords could be: “gwwgdgp”, “gWWgdgp1”, “GwwGdGp!”
Another way is to use a substitution code and change a common word like “password” into “Pa55wo4d”. But bear in mind the more common substitutions are like “5” for “S” are checked by most password cracking software. Use your imagination.
The best way to remember a password to use something memorable but don’t make it obvious. People love to use birthdays, anniversaries, street addresses, Social Security Numbers, their pets’ names, family member names, etc.
Your password should mean something to you but should not be so easily guessed or quickly discovered like your personal information. Use memorable things only you would know or would have meaning only to you.