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Tips For Stronger Passwords

Tips For Stronger Passwords

It's harder these days to stay a step ahead of the hackers

June 11th, 2012 in News

In the wake of the LinkedIn password hack, a lot of computer users are changing their passwords. But instead of changing it from "yourname1234" to "yourname4321," why not select something a little harder to crack?

Here are some ideas:

The longer your password is, the more secure it's considered to be. According to the security experts at Microsoft, a password should have, at a minimum, eight or more characters.

Make it complicated

They should also be complex. You should include letters, punctuation, symbols, and numbers. The greater the variety of characters in your password, the better.

It's also wise to change your passwords frequently and to not use one good password for all your accounts. But for most of us, this can present a problem.

It's hard enough to come up with one long, complex, secure password and memorize it. But to have to come up with several - and remember not only the passwords but to which accounts they're assigned? That seems a bit much.

That means you probably have to write down your passwords. But if you do, write them on paper (or write them to a memory stick), don't store them near your computer, and try not to make the document look like an obvious list of passwords. Don't call it "passwords.doc," in other words.

Security experts suggest using phrases, not single words, to construct passwords. For example, start with a sentence that might have particular meaning for you but few others, such as "My Best Vacation Was 1996." From that you might get "mybestvacationwas1996." For added security drop the "t" in best and replace it with "'". The password is "mybes'vacationwas1996."

Better yet, use a strong password generator. There are many out there. Here's one that is easy to use:

Worth the effort

Why go to all this trouble? Robert Siciliano, a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert, says hackers use software tools that can effortlessly crack many passwords, especially simple ones.

"Don't use personal information such as your name, age, birth date, child's name, pet's name, or favorite color/song, etc," Siciliano writes on the McAfee blog. "When 32 million passwords were exposed in a breach last year, almost one percent of victims were using '123456.' The next most popular password was '12345.' Other common choices are '111111,' 'princess," 'qwerty,' and 'abc123.'"

And while all accounts need to be sure, security is more important for some accounts than others. That's why passwords to access bank and brokerage accounts should be secure and changed often.