If you’ve been on the internet or used a device at some point, you’ve more than likely created a password. In fact, if you’ve been maintaining your passwords correctly, you’ve probably created a unique password for each of your online accounts. Whether they’re protecting your social media accounts, your email, your bank account, or your secret online cheese blog (mmm, cheese!), passwords are a necessary first step to keep you and your information safe.
Your current password is probably alright. After all, most accounts require you to use passwords containing capital letters, numbers, and at least one special character. But honestly, your password could likely be better, like not using any personal information (because if all you do is post about how much you love Gouda on your not-so-secret online cheese blog, there’s a gouda chance that a cyber criminal will be able to guess that information).
Don’t fret – it’s a lot easier than you think to make your password the best it can be. Here are some simple tips, with examples, to show you just how to do it:
Why you might have used it: On paper, this password seems OK: a strong password should be at least 12 characters long, and the longer the better. Using a combination of characters and a string of numbers can also help you protect your accounts. Plus, it was easy to come up with and even easier to remember, so it’s good all around, right? Well…
Why you shouldn’t use it: Using any variation of “password” for your password is a bad idea. It’s perhaps the most obvious password to crack, no matter how many random characters, numbers, or variations you use to spell it. Adding a random string of numbers into your password can also be helpful in keeping you secure – but obvious sequential numbers like 123456, or personal numbers like your phone number are really easy to guess.
How you can make it better: This password needs an upgrade, immediately. If you’re having a hard time coming up with something creative, consider using a random password generator. These generators (which can easily be found online) will give you a completely random string of numbers, characters, and letters that are almost impossible to guess. You can use a password manager to help you remember these while keeping them secure.
Why you might have used it: You love your cat and were looking for a way to honour her. Using a pet’s name makes a password more memorable, too. And using characters and numbers in place of letters in your password can be a good tactic to make your password more difficult to guess.
Why you shouldn’t use it: We get it. Snowball is your favourite cat and having her by your side makes this password really easy to remember – but it also makes it even easier for cyber criminals to guess. Don’t use the names of any people or animals that you know, or any number that might be of importance to you, like a date or address. You should also avoid using single dictionary words, even if you’re replacing some letters with special characters. Obvious letter substitutions, like @ for A, aren’t particularly difficult for a cyber criminal to crack.
How you can make it better: The minimum password character requirement for most accounts is 8, but we recommend using at least 12. You can make your password longer by adding random characters or numbers to your existing password. If you have to use something pet-related, consider incorporating a play on its breed name, or creating a passphrase by naming off some of its favourite toys.
Why you might have used it: You wanted to use a string of words, also known as a “passphrase”, as your password to stay cyber secure. You’ve made sure it’s over 12 characters and includes numbers and special characters. And if your name isn’t even Jon, you might think you’ve pulled an especially sneaky trick with this one.
Why you shouldn’t use it: Passphrases are effective, but only if you’re using them correctly. They’re mostly effective when the words are random and don’t form common sentences, like HumptyDumpySatOnAWall, or TheQuickBrownFoxJumpsOverTheLazyDog. It’s also important that you don’t include your name in your password or any form of obviously sequential numbers like 123, because those are easy to guess.
How you can make it better: Don’t use any personal information in your password or passphrase — especially not your name. Instead, take a look around you. The poster on your wall, the furniture in front of you, and even your house plants can give you the inspiration to make a secure passphrase like HorseBlanketCelloAloe or CheeseCactusRecordSwamp.
Passphrases should also be a bit longer than traditional passwords. You should also ensure that your passphrase contains at least 4 different words and is at least 15 characters long.
Your password is often your first line of defence against cyber criminals, which is why it’s so important to make sure that it’s strong and secure. You can strengthen your passwords by:
- Not using any personal information
- Using at least 12 characters
- Adding random characters AND numbers
- Using passphrases wherever possible
- Creating unique passwords for all of your accounts