A good password consists of two elements: strength and memorability. A hacker or computer can easily guess a weak password. And if it isn't memorable, well… it’s useless. These requirements seem easy enough, but if you’ve ever experienced a security breach or were unable to recall your password you’ll know that it isn’t exactly as simple as it seems. But don’t worry, we are here to lay out everything you need to have in mind while creating your next password.
The first step to creating a strong password is knowing the definition of one. Here are guidelines for a traditionally "good" password.
Create a Strong Password:
- Must be at least 12 characters long. This is an absolute minimum. The longer the password, the stronger it is.
- Includes all different types of characters, both upper and lower case, numbers, and symbols.
- Doesn’t use obvious substitutions such as swapping numbers for letters (“0” for “o”, “1” for “l”, “@” for “a”). While this can be a clever alternative for your user-name, it’s too obvious for your password. Any hacker or hacking software will quickly cycle through these substitutions to guess your password.
- Doesn’t use dictionary words, names, or places. As mentioned in the previous rule, hackers can try any possible variations of characters. To do this they cycle through many different dictionaries, which includes but is not limited to the english dictionary. This process cracks about two-thirds of all passwords.
Now that you’re familiar with the standards for an acceptable password, we’ll move on to the methods to create a password that will be both strong and easy to remember.
All you need to do is think of a sentence that is true for you, such as: I live at 435 Sherbet Lane. My dog is named Sparky! He was $50 to adopt., then you take the first character in the sentence and you’ll have Ila4SL.MdinS!Hw$5ta. This is a strong password, at 20 characters long, and utilizes all the aforementioned rules in a very easy and memorable way, since it uses a factual sentence as a mnemonic device.
This one throws out the traditional advice but is still strong, due to the sheer randomness of it. The way to create this one is to simply string random words together (the words should not form a sentence). The words marshmellow light ring pocket go flower will become marshmellowlightringpocketgoflower and you can increase the strength by adding in uppercase letters and punctuation like this: MarsHmellow?Light_ring_pocket_go_flower. This is easy to remember because it’s so unique to you, which also makes it difficult to guess. Make sure to use at least six words with this method due to how much technology has advanced in the years since it was introduced.
Use a password management service. This method can be used in conjunction with either of the previous methods, or it can be used alone with randomly generated passwords. It takes away the need to commit each and every one of your passwords to memory and makes everything much easier and more secure in general. You can use services like Dashlane, Lastpass, or Avast which all have free versions and are available across most platforms including PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android.
Remember, use multiple strong passwords. Using just one would give anyone who obtains the password for one account access to all your accounts. So now that you’re equipped with all the information you need, go forth and make good passwords. Your future secured self will thank you.