Passwords are used for almost everything these days. They have become keys to our bank accounts, work files, email accounts, and so on. Anyone who has your password (or can guess it) has access. Today’s password-cracking programs are highly sophisticated. Here’s how to choose passwords that aren’t easily compromised:
- Avoid passwords that are easy to guess, like "12345," "abcde," or "password." Don’t use properly spelled words from the dictionary (“bug” or “cat”). Don’t use repeated or mirrored words (“bugbug” or “buggub”). Don’t add a single character before or after a dictionary word (“bug1” or “8password”).
- Don't use information like your real or user name, spouse’s name, kid’s names, birthdates, street name, or names of your pets.
- Avoid words that are commonly used in passwords. Criminals know these and include them in password-cracking dictionaries. These include cartoon characters, famous names, Biblical words, movie and song names, number patterns, and sports teams.
- Choose a password that’s at least six characters long. Mix lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols in a seemingly random combination. For example, a word like "summer" could become
- Pretend you’re creating a vanity license plate slogan. Squeeze a phrase into eight characters or use the first or last letter of each word in the phrase. For example, “You can't always get what you want” might become “YcagwyW.”
- Deliberately misspell one or two words or put random symbols in the middle of a word (“vege%tarian”).
- Change default administrative passwords on new computer equipment and software—manufacturers use the same password for everyone, and criminals make it their business to know these!
Each person keeps an average of 15 important passwords. Safeguard your passwords just as you would the keys to your house or safe:
- Use a different password for each account.
- Don't tell anyone your passwords. Don’t write a password down and leave it in an obvious place.
- Change your passwords often—several times a year. (Many systems force you to do this.)
- Run antivirus scans frequently to check for malicious programs.