Smart Security: 7 Ways to Create Strong Passwords

Computer Security, Geeky Stuff

strong passwords, computer security, password mistakesTo gain access to many important areas, you need a password. Even though passwords are a necessity in our digital lives, many passwords are weak or insecure or too simple to figure out.

Many hackers and intruders enter computer systems simply by guessing passwords or by using dictionaries and mathematical calculations. If a difficult to crack password was the only criteria, you might select a 20-character combination such as: *d9W>z&gY3k7![pS$f8R but would you ever remember this?

It is important, then, to learn strategies for creating strong, effective, and easy to remember passwords.

1. Avoid the Obvious

Don’t make the mistake of creating passwords that are based on personal information, your login ID, or are simple to guess or locate.

2. Make It Longer

One of the features of a strong password is that it is at least 8 characters in length and it should be a combination of mixed-case letters with the addition of numbers and punctuation where allowed.

3. Vanity Plates

How many times have you been driving behind a car with a vanity plate? Were the characters cryptic but easy to decipher? Have you seen these plates?

  • CUL8TR (see you later)
  • LV2XLR8 (love to accelerate)
  • HAPE2GLF (happy to golf)

Consider an easy to remember phrase that can be expressed without complete words and with a combination of mixed case letters as well as numbers and symbols:

  • dRkCh0co4me (use a zero in place of the letter O)
  • 1H8!meenPeepL
  • LvT1meOfff#

Have some fun making up combinations of phrases that have meaning to you but that would not be easy for other people to guess.

4. Song Lyrics

Think of a favorite song lyric, book, or poem. The more obscure your choice, the better. Next, create a password from a combination such as the 1st letter of each word of the phrase. Some hacker dictionaries have common songs and phrases built in, and so, you will want to strengthen your password by adding in other characters or personalizing the song in some way. For instance: “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose,” might become r1trNr2Xhavsn

You want to avoid obvious geek phrases, of course, such as “Luke, I am your father” or “Beam me up Scotty.”

5. Passphrases

Choose 5 or more random words and string them together to create a nonsense phrase. For greater strength, use a downloadable program such as Diceware that helps you generate word combinations from your throw of multiple dice.

6. Blended Words

String together 3 or more totally unrelated words by breaking apart and re-combining the parts of each word. For instance, combining the words SPOON LIME PUPPY might result in SPOLIPUPP.

7. Annoy Lurkers

Do use a password that can be typed quickly, without having to look at the keyboard. This makes it harder for someone to steal your password by looking at your keyboard (also known as “lurking” or “shoulder surfing”). Do not use keyboard sequences or characters found together such as QWERTY.

These 7 strategies will enable you to choose and create strong passwords that will help improve the security of your computer and other devices.

By Dawn Bjork, MCT, The Software Pro®
Microsoft Certified Trainer, Technology Speaker, Software Consultant

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