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How to create a safe password
Posted by Steinn Ingi Þorsteinsson on 18/07/2012 00:28

The average computer user regularly faces the challenge of creating a safe password that is also easy to remember. A safe password is a key factor in computer security because if your password is not safe, your antivirus, firewall and other safety measures will be significantly less effective. Here are a few guidelines that users can follow to create and maintain a good password.

  1. Use a mix of numbers, letters and special characters like #, $, % or &. Have some of the letters in upper case and others in lower case.
  2. Do not use your name, your address or your phone number as your password. Avoid creating your password based on your pet's name, your wife's birthday, your favorite sports team or other personal information. Generally dates can be considered too weak when taken alone.
  3. Change your password regularly, even as often as once every three months.
  4. Do not use the same password for multiple sites. Consider adding a shortcut for each website for easy reference. For example amz for Amazon, faceb for Facebook or nytimes for New York Times. You do not want a cyber criminal to obtain access to your e-mail, bank account and Ebay by cracking your Facebook password.
  5. Never use your username as your password.
  6. Cyber criminals will check for frequently used passwords like 12345, qwerty and the too often used password. Avoid them.
  7. Do not use a word from the dictionary. Brute Force or Dictionary Attacks will check for words in the dictionaries. Spelling words backwards will not help. Using words from other languages rarely protects you any more.
  8. The more different characters your passwords has, the safer it is. This means it is not only about quantity (length) but also about quality (diversity of the used characters).
  9. Do not write down your password or share it with others. You may, however, write down clues that only you will understand.
  10. Programs are available that can help you keep track of your passwords. Check out Keepass, Roboform or PasswordSafe.

There are certain techniques to make a strong and safe password. Consider using your favorite song or quote from literature to help you. For example, take the first letters from the famous Beatles song: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. That would be splhcb. Change some of the letters into numbers or signs and rotate between upper and lower case. Changing s=$, h=4 and b=8 would create the password $pL4c8. Let's say you are using this password for Amazon. Adding amz to the end of the password would generate $pL4c8amz. Voilà! You have a strong password, unique for this site, which is difficult to crack but easy for you to remember. In three months time, find a new Beatles song and change your passwords.

In conclusion, cracking and stealing passwords is widespread. Automated tools are used to crack passwords and user names, and phishing attempts are used to trick users into giving up their passwords. Follow these guidelines and stay safe on the internet.

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