Create strong passwords every time with this guide. Find methods to improve your passwords and why they work.
Passwords are the keys to our own online private kingdoms. Much like the key to your front door, you want it to be as secure as possible. But much like house keys as well, we want our passwords to be easy to use. You don’t want to spend minutes unlocking your front door. You don’t want to spend minutes looking for that one password either.
That’s the dilemma at the heart of creating a strong password. Making your password as strong as possible is easy, as we’ll see soon. But having a strong password that won’t irritate you every time you have to use it? That’s a whole different ball game.
This guide is for those who want to protect themselves online and create strong passwords every time. We’ll start with the basic anatomy of a strong password. Then we’ll talk about what makes these passwords strong and others weak. We’ll discuss some ways of checking the strength of your passwords. We’ll also discuss some ways of remembering passwords and why all of this is important in the first place.
So let’s begin and create a strong password, shall we?
What makes a strong password?
What is the basic anatomy of a strong password? With these six basic strategies, you’ll be well on your way to creating strong passwords.
Make it long
This is perhaps the most important of all tips. Longer passwords are less vulnerable to brute force attacks (more on that later). So how long is long? You shouldn’t use passwords shorter than 16 characters. In some cases, it’s recommended to make them even longer! Up to 25 characters can really improve password strength. Read this guide to learn more about password length. We’ll discuss strategies to remember passwords later on.
Avoid common passwords and personal info
This should speak for itself. Don’t use your name or birthdate as a password. If the hacker is targeting you personally they’ll use all they can find. Common passwords such as ‘password’, ‘admin’ and the like should also be avoided.
Use a mix of (special) characters
Use upper and lower case, numbers and symbols. The more different characters you use, the stronger the password becomes.
Avoid common substitutions
When using special characters, don’t use them as common substitutions! (Such as D00R8377 for Doorbell). These are easy to guess for hackers and make your password weaker.
Don’t use single-word passwords
Using only a single word in your password makes it easier to guess. Using multiple words in a single password makes it stronger.
Don’t use memorable keyboard paths
Look at your keyboard. The most obvious path is ‘qwerty’. A less obvious option is ‘ghjkl’. This might look like a random set of letters. But both are equally obvious and easy to guess. If you want to make strong passwords, don’t use them!
Why are these methods successful for creating strong passwords? To understand that we need to know how passwords are cracked first.
How are passwords cracked?
There are four big ways that your password can get cracked. This can happen through a brute force attack, a dictionary attack, phishing or through a leak. We’ll discuss each option and what you can do about them below.
Brute force attack
This is the simplest option. A hacker simply tries every possible combination in the shortest amount of time. The longer the password, the longer it takes to try every possible option. Using special characters and numbers helps as well.
Sadly the technology is rapidly improving the threat of a brute force attack. Already in 2012, a hacker showed that his system could crack any 8-character password in less than six hours. Generally, any password under 12 characters is vulnerable to this method.
Just like it sounds, a dictionary attack tries to guess words in the dictionary. It’s particularly successful against single word passwords. The more common the word, the easier it is to guess. Using multiple words in one password and using incredibly uncommon words help protect your password against a dictionary attack.
It’s probably one of the most underhanded and best-known tactics that hackers can use. With phishing, hackers try to trick, intimidate and pressure you to give them your passwords. We’ll discuss good strategies to avoid falling for a phishing scam with a later blog. A good strategy, for now, is to never give out passwords online, on the phone or if you don’t know the person really well.
Passwords can leak when a website you used it on gets hacked themselves. This is why you should create a new password for every new account. Another good method to protect yourself is by changing your passwords every once in a while. If you’re not sure whether your password is leaked you can check it here.
How to create a strong password every time
We know the basic anatomy of a strong password and we know how weaker passwords can be cracked. For some, this might be enough to create a strong password. Others might still struggle a bit. Here we return to the basic dilemma at the start of this guide. We don’t just want to have strong passwords, we want to create a strong password that is easy to use as well.
These two impulses can be at odds with each other. A longer password, with many different characters, no common words or easy to guess sequences. That sounds nice, but it’s really hard to remember!
Don’t worry. There are some common strategies you can use to create strong passwords that are easy to remember.
The multi-word method
Use a long sequence of uncommon words. The longer the sequence the stronger the password. Using extremely uncommon words or mixing languages helps a lot as well.. An example of a password like this would be:
Use words as sequences that have meaning for you but not necessarily to most people. These kinds of passwords tend to be long, protecting them against a brute force attack. Dictionary attacks struggle against less common words and multiple words as well.
The sentence method
Similar, but slightly different. You take a sentence that you can remember and pick the first two letters. Say it’s from a book you like, but maybe not pick a book that is too obvious and well known, like Harry Potter. Take the sentence ‘It seems to me that love is everywhere.’ That would translate to the password:
To anyone else that’s just a bunch of random letters. To you it makes sense and that’s most important.
How to Remember Strong Passwords
Let’s say you have a lot of accounts and coming up with new strong passwords that are easy to remember becomes near impossible. Maybe you’ve decided to use a random password generator instead. There are ways to remember or to save strong passwords and keep them safe.
Write them down! Yes, really. Most of the threats to your online accounts come from online. Hackers can’t see the notebook on your desk or all the passwords scribbled in it.
You can use a password manager on your computer to automate the process of writing passwords down and keeping them safe. If you’re looking for which manager to use, you can find out in this guide.
How to check your password strength
Sometimes you’re not entirely sure if a password is really safe. First, follow the general anatomy stated above in this article. Is there a way you can make your password even safer? Will that make the password too difficult to remember?
If you’re still not sure you can use a password strength checker to find out how strong your password is. One useful password strength checker is password monster. It measures the strength of your password in how it would take to crack it with a brute force attack.
Another password checker is Have I Been Pwned. Here you can enter your email adress and it checks if any of your passwords linked to that email address have been hacked.
Why is it important to create strong passwords?
After all of the above, you might wonder if it’s worth all this trouble. Is creating a strong password really that important? The short answer is yes.
We are living more and more of our lives online. Most of that brings us a lot of joy. It’s never been easier to chat with friends, order products or food online or binge a new series online.
All these online services come with the flipside of increased risk, however. More and more of our personal information can find its way into the hands of hackers. You can become the victim of credit card theft or identity fraud. We all want to minimise the risks we run. The answer is not to do less online, but to be cleverer in how we use and protect our personal details.
How to protect yourself online
One important method of doing that is using strong passwords, as we described in this guide. It is not the only way you can protect yourself, however. Another method is to use prepaid credit cards, instead of regular credit cards.
Even if your credit card details leak, that can’t lead to big problems when you’re using a prepaid card. The only thing that’s there to steal is the money you deposited on it. By using only the money you need, that number is never high.
If you’re interested in using prepaid credit cards as an extra method of protecting yourself, we have a guide comparing prepaid cards. You can also buy prepaid credit cards on Recharge.com by visiting our Prepaid credit cards page.
With a strong password and a prepaid card in hand, you’ll protect yourself easily online.