Strong Passwords

123456 is a bad choice. And other tips for creating a strong password.

Your pet's name or your mother's maiden name may be easy to remember, but they don't make good passwords. A strong password is one that's hard for hackers to guess or decipher. And considering that there are websites and chat groups--and hundreds of online programs--that exist purely to help hackers crack passwords, setting a strong password has never been more important.

A 'strong' password:

  • Has a minimum of eight characters.
  • Is a combination of upper and lower-case letters.
  • Includes numbers and symbols.
  • Does not appear in a dictionary (in any language).

Tips for setting a strong password:

  • Consider a “passphrase.” Abbreviate a phrase you'll remember. It could include numbers and symbols, or words that you can substitute with numbers or symbols. I ride my bike 5 miles each Saturday becomes Irmb5meS.
  • Use punctuation and numbers to combine the initials of athletes, friends, movies, books, or historical figures. Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and Joan of Arc becomes 1G, 2AL, 3JoA.
  • Drop all vowels from a favorite saying, then add numbers or symbols. Walk three dogs becomes Wlk3Dgs.
  • Select a long phrase and make substitutions – instead of "are" use "r," instead of "be" use "b," instead of "for" use "4"and so on. "Ask not what your country can do for you" becomes AnWyCcd4U. "To be or not to be, that is the question" becomes 2bOn2BtItQ.
  • Check your password on your favorite search engine. If it’s a strong password, you should get no results.
  • Once you pick a password, change it immediately if you suspect it's been compromised.

And no matter what, NEVER:

  • Share your password with people--even family.
  • Use your username as your password.
  • Use "password" as your password.
  • Use your first or last name as your password.
  • Use repeating or sequential numbers. 
  • Use dictionary words as passwords.
  • Write the password on a post-it and put it on the monitor, keyboard or desk blotter.