A password is often the first line of defense for your accounts. Creating a strong one provides greater security and will help protect your data by making it more difficult for others to access. This is especially important for remote work, as home offices are often more vulnerable. While it is encouraged to use multiple types of authentication, that may not always be doable for some. We’ve compiled a list of tips to help improve the strength of your passwords.
1. Make Your Password Long
A long password should be at least 12 characters. Some even recommend going up to 14 or 16 characters to better future-proof it. The longer the password, the exponentially more difficult it will be to crack it.
According to LMG Security, even a strong 8-character password on a well-encrypted network may only take 7 days to uncover. At 10 characters, this becomes 188 years. And with 12 characters, it jumps to 1.735 million years. While many elements go into a unique password, length is one of the most important.
2. Use Uppercase/Lowercase Letters, Numbers, and Symbols
To improve password strength regardless of length, use a mixture of distinct characters. Many accounts require at least one of each: a lowercase letter, an uppercase letter, a number, and a symbol.
3. Avoid Using Common Words
Whether it’s a food, sports team, or favorite color, avoid using common words without modifying them. Some attackers will target words in the dictionary, with minor consideration for anything else. By avoiding common words, you’re already a step ahead.
4. Don’t Use Easy-to-Find Personal Information
Be careful about using easy-to-find personal information, such as the name of your pet, family member, or company you work for. Like security questions, any private content shouldn’t be readily known or guessed.
5. Make It Easy To Remember
Passwords don’t have to be an unrecognizable jumble of letters, numbers, and symbols. When creating a unique password, there are a lot of creative ways to make it easier to remember.
- Write a memorable sentence and use only the first letters.
- Remove all the vowels from your favorite movie quote.
- Add a date that’s important to you. Avoid using your birthday.
- Type the same password twice in a row, with a slight variation the second time.
- Substitute specific letters with a random number or symbol.
Different methods may work better for each person. You can be creative with the process. The goal is to make it something you can personally remember, while also being difficult for anyone else to guess.
6. Be Careful Writing Your Password Down
While there are many ways to make passwords more memorable, some may struggle with it. Writing your passwords down will let you increase their difficulty while only requiring you to know their location. Just be careful where you store them because if it’s easy for you, it’ll be quick for someone else too.
7. Check the Strength of Your Password
After creating your password, use a third-party strength checker like the one available at Security.org. Keep in mind even if the password is strong, attackers may steal one of any length or complexity if there’s a data breach.
8. Don’t Reuse Passwords
Using the same password on more than one account may save time but can add risk. In 2021, Verizon DBIR observed 5,250 confirmed data breaches. This is up from 3,950 breaches the previous year. If your password is leaked, that same one can be checked against every other account you have.
9. Use Password Management Software
Password management software is a great way to create stronger passwords by removing the need to memorize them. You only need to remember one master password for the software itself, and it’ll fill in details for any connected account. Cybersecurity solutions like 1password allow you to share them amongst multiple users too.
10. Try a Password Generator
While being memorable can go a long way, password managers remove that requirement. Password generators can put together a random password based on conditions such as length, symbols, characters, capital letters, and more.
Many aspects go into creating a strong password. It’s not just about the complexity of it, but also your ability to remember it. PC Magazine said that 70% of survey respondents use the same one for at least one other account. Google noted that only 26% of their check-up extension users changed passwords that were flagged as risky. These numbers represent several underlying problems.
Some may underestimate the vulnerability of their passwords. Some might struggle to keep up with the ever-growing list of accounts that require separate logins. And others simply don’t have the time or energy to put much thought into it.
Password managers can reduce some of those challenges, and managed IT services like ITonDemand can help set that up. Whatever strategy a person takes, having a strong password will make your accounts more secure.