Password ABCs: How to Choose a Password
by Robert McNicholas on March, 17 2017
Pop quiz: How many passwords do you have? If you’re like me, the answer is “a bit over two dozen, and that’s all the information I’m giving you.” If you’re like the average Briton in 2012, you might need 20 or so passwords, but you use less than half that number.
Honestly, there’s no reason to use one password for multiple accounts—unless you’re okay with someone hacking into one account and getting access to the others. One unique password per account is not the gold standard of Internet security anymore; it’s the basic standard.
Check out this post on free ways to make your PC more secure.
We’ll talk about what you can do if you can’t remember all those pesky passwords in an upcoming post. Today, let’s focus on how you can choose a password that you will be able to remember.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Choosing a Password
So let’s make this simple. Let’s start with what you don’t want to do when choosing a password:
- Don’t use a password that is all lowercase, all uppercase, or all numbers.
- Don’t use a password that’s easily identifiable, such as a common word, your name, or your place of work.
- Never, ever, use the word “password” or something like “abc123.”
Okay, enough with the Don’ts. Let’s focus on the Do’s.
- Do make your password strong. We’ll go into the details of a strong password on a future post, but suffice it to say that a strong password is a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Do change your passwords regularly. This isn’t as scary as it sounds; we’ll show you how you can make passwords that are easy to remember.
- Do keep your passwords to yourself.
We are all familiar with the concept of changing passwords, thanks to the recent information hacks that have come to light. Instead of waiting for some kind of data disaster, it’s a good idea to change your passwords regularly. For your more sensitive accounts, you might feel most comfortable changing passwords every few months. For less important accounts, once or twice a year should be fine.
How to Pick a Password
A successful password is a memorable password. Different people have different ways of coming up with non-word passwords. Choose the option that works for you from the ones listed below.
- Use the first letters of an easy-to-remember sentence. This could be just about anything that you know you’ll remember. For example, if every morning you start your day with a cup of chai tea from Starbucks, your sentence would be
“Every Morning I Start With A Cup Of Tea.”
This would make your base password “emiswacot.” Add a few symbols and numbers to this, and your password will be extremely difficult to bust.
- Use the lyrics or title to a song you love. Suppose you’re a huge fan of the Beatles’ hit “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Your base password could either be “iwhyh” after the song title, or “itysityu” after the opening line (I'll tell you something / I think you'll understand). Obviously, this works best if it’s a song you know by heart.
- Use dates that are important to you (other than your birthday). You don’t want to use your birthday for obvious security reasons. But you could use dates that have personal significance to you, perhaps the day you got married or engaged, the date your first child was born, or the day you bought a new car. However, you will want to disguise the date a bit. So, if you bought a brand-new Mazda Miata, you might make your password something like “bmyMD14”—Bought My Miata December 14.
Hopefully, this has taken some of the fear away from the task of finding a password. Check with us next week as we explore the topic of passwords further.
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