Creating Secure Passwords
Monthly Digital Citizenship Newsletter
Tips for creating strong passwords
- Has 12 Characters, Minimum: You need to choose a password that’s long enough. There’s no minimum password length everyone agrees on, but you should generally go for passwords that are a minimum of 12 to 14 characters in length. A longer password would be even better.
- Includes Numbers, Symbols, Capital Letters, and Lower-Case Letters: Use a mix of different types of characters to make the password harder to crack.
- Isn’t a Dictionary Word or Combination of Dictionary Words: Stay away from obvious dictionary words and combinations of dictionary words. Any word on its own is bad. Any combination of a few words, especially if they’re obvious, is also bad. For example, “house” is a terrible password. “Red house” is also very bad.
- Doesn’t Rely on Obvious Substitutions: Don’t use common substitutions, either — for example, “H0use” isn’t strong just because you’ve replaced an o with a 0. That’s just obvious.
But how do I create a MEMORABLE password?!
With the tips above, it’s pretty easy to come up with a password. Just bash your fingers against your keyboard and you can come up with a strong password like 3o(t&gSp&3hZ4#t9. That’s a pretty good one—it’s 16 characters, includes a mix of many different types of characters, and is hard to guess because it’s a series of random characters.
The only problem here is memorizing this password. Assuming you don’t have a photographic memory, you’d have to spend time drilling these characters into your brain. There are random password generators that can come up with this type of password for you—they’re generally most useful as part of a password manager that will also remember the passwords for you.
You’ll need to think about how to come up with a memorable password. You don’t want to use something obvious with dictionary characters, so consider using some sort of trick to memorize it.
For example, you might find it easier to remember a sentence like “The first house I ever lived in was 613 Fake Street. Rent was $400 per month.” You can turn that sentence into a password by using the first digits of each word, so your password would become TfhIeliw613FS.Rw$4pm. This is a strong password at 21 digits. Sure, a true random password might include a few more numbers and symbols and upper-case letters scrambled around, but it’s not bad at all.
Best of all, it’s memorable. You just need to remember those two simple sentences.