Choosing a secure password may sound easy, but it can make or break the safety of your online data and identity. Your life can change drastically if a hacker or identity thief figured out your email password. Social media password? Even worse. Eventually, these hackers can access your online bank accounts and wreak havoc on your finances, with resounding repercussions lasting for years.
To craft the perfect password, you'll need to understand some fundamental knowledge regarding how passwords are created, stored—and stolen. Here are some tips for creating secure passwords:
Make it unguessable
No matter what your password is, it should withstand 100 guesses, which means it shouldn't be tied to any public information about you or your family.
Hackers frequently search for information about you on your social media accounts, and a little information may go a long way, such as your birthday or your dog's name. Criminals are believed to guess the typical person's password roughly 73% of the time, and they can often access additional accounts by varying the same password slightly.
Phrases work well
Instead of viewing your password as a secret code, consider it a "passphrase." These phrases are both simple to recall and difficult for others to decode. For many, an excellent starting password strategy is a passphrase: some combination of words or numbers that's long and sticks in your head. It might be a favorite quote or phrase or a sequence of words that have special significance to you, such as your top five ice cream flavors.
Longer is better
If you do nothing else, make your passwords as long as possible. Even a password consisting of a familiar phrase, such as "JackandJillwentupthehill," is far more secure than "bT6$g2" simply because the first one is longer.
Each character in a password can either be a lowercase letter, an uppercase letter, a number, or a special character. Using all lowercase letters, there are 26 possibilities for each character; uppercase letters, numbers, and a special character can boost that to 96 possibilities. Because password crackers can be programmed to try passwords using only lowercase letters, including even a single number or special symbol might confuse them.
Use a password manager
Using a password manager is one of the most important ways you can use to keep yourself safe online. Password managers are apps that generate new, unique passwords for each website you visit. These logins are kept in an encrypted virtual vault by the program. Then, when you visit a site or open an app where you need to log in, the password manager automatically fills in your login name and password. The most effective password managers notify you if your present passwords are weak, reused, or have been exposed in a data breach. We recommend using passwords that are at least 20 characters long and include all major character types: uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols.
Choose something memorable
Remember, each password should be unique, but they don't have to be complicated. A password should be a "memorized secret" — easy to remember, hard to crack. You want to avoid the temptation to write down passwords, so pick a password that has enough meaning to stay top of mind. If you forget your password, you can ask for a password reset. However, with important passwords, you risk going through a lengthy process of proving your identity. You either need a memorable password or one you know where to find.
Two-factor authentication is a must
Passwords are no longer enough to secure your information. Cybercriminals are more clever than ever before, and if they break into your accounts, you may not notice the damage until it's too late. That’s why two-factor authentication is so essential. When using text messages, emails, or unique apps, an account holder will receive a notification every time a password is changed, entered on a new device, or at a new location. You will have to verify that it's you attempting to gain access.
A strong password is your line of defense against hackers, ensuring your public and private information remains safe. You don't need a random succession of numbers and symbols to make an impenetrable password. The best (and most secure) passwords tend to be logical, fluid, and easy to remember. Follow these guidelines to create the perfect password and ensure your online safety for years to come.
Cybersecurity is tough for any one person or small team to tackle. Our team at SeedSpark has decades of experience in delivering state-of-the-art cybersecurity solutions to our clients, providing protective protection and backup and disaster recovery solutions that let them know that their data is secure. Click the link below to download our free guide, The Art of Password Theft, to learn more about the various ways that passwords are stolen each day.