These days, just about anything you want to do on the web requires a password—whether it’s sending an email, checking your bank statement, or streaming your favorite movie. With so many passwords to keep track of it can be tempting to choose something simple, like “123456” or “password,” or simply use the same password across multiple platforms.
While these passwords are easy for you to remember, they are also easy for bad actors to hack. To protect yourself and your information, it is important to use passwords that are long, complex, and unique while still memorable for you.
Today, we are going to share five tips for making your passwords as strong as possible. If you are more of a visual learner, watch our latest Tech Tip video to follow along with tech expert Riley. Let’s get started!
Avoid common words, phrases, or information. The more generic your password is, the easier it will be for hackers to guess. Avoid some of the most commonly used password terms—like baseball, qwerty, and yes, password. Similarly, don’t use information that hackers could easily find about you, like your birthday, phone number, or hometown.
The longer, the better. Some of the more advanced hackers use a technique called “brute force attack,” in which a computer program runs through possible combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols as fast as possible to try and crack your password. Using this technique, it can take less than a single second to learn someone’s password. All passwords should be at least six characters long—and with every additional character, they will become a bit harder to crack. The National Institute of Standards and Technology suggests using the longest password or passphrase permissible, from 8 to 64 characters, whenever you can.
Include numbers and special characters. In order to stump hackers, randomly include symbols and numbers along with letters. For example, if you are using the word “panda” in your password, replace the first letter A with an @ symbol.
Do not recycle passwords. While it may feel like a nuisance, you should use a different password for every online platform you use. If hackers obtain your password for one account, and you have used that password across multiple sites, hackers can easily access all of that information. If you are worried about remembering all of your passwords, don’t write them down on a piece of paper that anyone could find—use a secure password manager, like Lastpass, which allows you store all your valuable password information in one place (and make sure you use and extra-strong password for your password manager).
Change your passwords regularly. The longer you keep one password, especially a weak one, the more opportunities you are giving hackers to correctly guess it. How long you should go before changing your password depends on who you ask, but to be safe, you should change your passwords at least every few months. However, if you receive a notification from a company about a possible breach, you should change the password you use for that account immediately.
That’s it for this edition of Tech Tips! Check back soon for another tip to make your technology work for you.