Read this article if you want to protect your privacy and avoid data theft!
Everybody knows the importance of using a strong computer password. Even so, there’s a logical reason for highly guessable passwords like LOVE, QWERTY, JESUS and PASSWORD being all too common: We have human brains and too many digital accounts! Now that we’re expected to have unique passwords for so many services, it’s more difficult than ever to maintain mental notes of passwords that work. This article from the data privacy folks at hostingreviews.com gives you fun tips for creating and remembering passwords that are hard to crack.
What is a strong password? Strong = Long
First things first. What is a strong password? Many IT administrators specify that passwords be at least six or eight characters long and contain a capital letter, number or “curse word symbol” like % or #. The common belief is that formulas like these will foil hackers. If only it were true… In most cases a hacker can crack such passwords within a day! You can verify this claim by testing different passwords at howsecureismypassword.net. An eight-digit password was cracked in less than a second with their simulator, but a password twice that length would require an estimated 16 billion years to guess!
What matters most isn’t non-dictionary words and random symbols, but password length. According to a study at Carnegie Mellon, it’s best to use a password of 16 characters or more.
Tips for the Pea-Brain
So… how can you remember a password of 16 characters or longer? Here are two strategies.
Strategy #1: Create an acronym. Let’s start out small and suppose that I want a short four-letter password. I’ll take the title of my favorite book, Casa de los Espiritus. By taking the first letter of each word I’ll get the password CDLE. This password would be cracked in seconds by a hacker program, but it shows you the clever acronym setup.
Obviously, coming up with a secure 16-character password is more time consuming. This is where numbers step in: They speed things up while adding diversity. However, you should avoid your birthdate, house number, SSN and common strings of numbers (e.g., 2013, 666, 1234, 9999 and 867-5309).
Fun password fact: 867-5309, which is the phone number from the Tommy Tutone song “Jenny”, was the fourth most common seven-digit password in 2012!
Other numbers in your life have little meaning to hackers, and especially when mixed with letters. For instance, you could write a phrase that includes the make of your first car. In this way I created the password IDAF1982NDTSEDJY: I Drove A Freaking 1982 Nissan Datson To School Every Day Junior Year. The phrase is memorable to the creator yet very, very unlikely for a computer program to attempt.
What other numbers could you try? Your weight or an ideal weight would work, and you could turn your password into a belated New Year’s Resolution: I Will Weigh 160 Pounds Or Less By My 10-Year High School Reunion, IWW160POLBM10YHSR. Include the clearance of your RV. Use your preferred annual salary. Any apparently random string of characters will do! The point is that you use 16 characters or more to stay far ahead of hackers.
Strategy #2: Chunk! Chunking is the act of breaking a long string of data into manageable bits. Phone numbers are excellent examples. Most of us aren’t ready to remember random strings of ten digits, but when they’re presented as sets of numbers like 800-555-0100, they’re easier to manage.
The chunking strategy makes it easier remember the passwords assigned by website administrators. You can also use chunking to create long yet memorable passwords. For instance, you could list several objects that you habitually buy at Target: Cat Food. Cat Litter. Paper Towels. Stuff For the Kids’ Lunches. And Things I Don’t Need, because that often happens when we shop at Target. In other words, CF CL PT SFTKL ATIDN. Ha! Another tip: Picturing your list of items helps sear it into memory.
A final word: It’s best to use completely different passwords for each of your accounts. If that’s not reasonable given your brain overload, simply vary your primary password by adding symbols or altering the capitalization.
Techopedia fans, how do you create and remember long passwords? We’d love to hear from you!