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How to create a strong password for better security

by | May 10, 2024

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In this digital age, we need a password for nearly everything – from our banking app to our social media accounts to our work computer sign-ins. It can be hard to keep so many passwords straight, which is why many people opt for simple, easy-to-remember ones. While simple passwords might make it easier to sign in day-to-day, they could be setting you up for major security problems. So keeping your information safe online starts with creating a strong password for every account.

Do you have a strong password?

You might be wondering if your password is easy to hack. According to NordPass, 17 of the 20 most common passwords can be hacked in less than a second. These common passwords include “123456,””admin,” “password,” and “11111.” Using any one of these easy-to-guess passwords is like leaving your front door unlocked for anyone to come in. Cybercriminals attempt to hack accounts with password spraying, or using that list of the most common passwords on different accounts until they get in. Criminals can use your data for a variety of purposes online, including accessing your financial information. They might even pretend to be you online by sending emails from your address or creating social media accounts using your profile information.

A strong password is one of the most important ways to stay secure online.

How passwords get cracked

So, how do passwords get cracked? Wherever you have an account, a database stores your username and password. To keep passwords safe, these systems “hash” or encrypt the password, scrambling the information so it isn’t easily accessible. Different parts of your password are marked with a hash value to make it difficult to decode. Data breaches, which are all too common, often include hashed passwords, and hackers have a variety of creative methods to crack passwords. They use brute force attacks to guess at every single possible letter, number, symbol combination in a password. Hackers also maintain and use lists of commonly used passwords, like “123456”, to break into accounts.

Tips to create a strong password

Cybersecurity is more important than ever and setting crack-proof passwords is a key part of protecting yourself from identity theft or fraud. Keep your personal data safe from hackers with these tips for making a strong password. It’s time to leave simplicity behind, but if you’re concerned about remembering a long list of complex passwords, don’t worry. We’ll get to that in a moment when we talk about password managers. Let’s go over some password dos and don’ts first so you can create a strong password.

Password ‘Dont’s’

  • Don’t use your personal information in a password. This includes names, birthdates, anniversaries, or street names.
  • Don’t use the same password in multiple places. This includes using the same password with just one or two characters changed. If someone hacks your password on one site, your other accounts that use that same password become compromised.
  • Avoid common keyboard patterns like “qwerty” or “asdfg.”
  • Don’t recycle previously used passwords when you update your password.

Use these strong password tips to stay secure.

Password ‘Do’s’

  • The best passwords are at least 12 characters and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (!@#$&^%).
  • Create a mnemonic device to remember your passwords. Your bank password could use a dollar sign and emoticons based on how you feel about it. Something like “RoLL!nG$inIT;)” is secure and can be remembered without too much hassle. Notice that this password isn’t actually a dictionary word, which makes it more difficult to hack.
  • Change your passwords often, at least every 90 days. If you are likely to forget, just set a reminder in your calendar or phone.

How am I supposed to remember all these passwords?

So, you’ve created a strong password like “h71[{!0~I3KI1>V”—great! It’s very secure, but also difficult to remember. It gets even harder if you create one like this for every single site and app where you sign in. That’s where a password manager comes in.

Password managers encrypt and securely store all of your passwords. Some even generate secure passwords for you to save you the trouble of thinking of a good one every 90 days. To use a password manager, you’ll only have to remember one master password. When you sign into your accounts, the password manager autofills your information so you don’t have to remember all those unique and complex passwords. Some password managers can also save your credit card information, insurance accounts, driver’s license, and more.

Keep your accounts secure

Even with a password manager and a strong password, you should take some additional steps to ensure your accounts remain safe and secure:

  • Turn on two-factor authentication for your important services to add another layer of security. Two-factor authentication requires extra verification besides a username and password, such as a security code sent to you by text message or email.
  • Be wary of any attempts to gain your information, like phishing or social engineering.
  • Always sign out of accounts if you use a shared computer and don’t sign in to accounts that contain your personal information when you’re on a public or shared WiFi connection.
  • Make sure no one is watching over your shoulder as you enter your passwords.

Stay safe on all your devices with a strong password.

A strong password for the win

The internet is a powerful tool that helps us all stay connected, do business and entertain ourselves. But like any tool, it can also be used to do harm. That’s why it’s important to stay educated and informed about how to keep yourself safe in online spaces. If you haven’t already updated your passwords to maximize your security, there’s no better time than now.

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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/maliaruchti" target="_self">Malia Ruchti</a>

Malia Ruchti

Author

Malia Ruchti has been known to use the internet once in a while. She has found herself writing on, about, and for the internet for at least 10 years. She's written web content for nonprofits and small businesses. She has also written grants and business plans. Writing content for CenturyLink has given her great insight to the workings of the internet. Malia lives in Colorado with her family, most of whom are too young to explore the internet. Instead, they spend a lot of time outside with plants, dogs, and bikes.