Tips for creating a strong password

With password leaks become more frequent, having one password for all your online accounts isn't a great idea. Neither is still using the same password you created when you first used the internet all those years ago. There is no better time to change your password to make sure your data stays secure.

How to keep your passwords super secure

But how do you go about doing that, and what's the best way to choose a new password? Don't worry, we've got your back and have come up with a handy guide to help you choose a strong and hopefully safe password be it for email, social networking or just your wireless access at home.

Don't give it out

I know, sounds obvious doesn't it, but you'll be amazed how many people ignore this valuable tip and blurt it out, whether its to your partner because you are too lazy to check your email yourself or someone as you shout it across the office. There is a simple rule. DON'T DO IT.

Make it hard to guess

Yes we've all seen enough "hacker" movies to know that God, Sex and Secret are supposedly the most common used passwords out there. But really a password should be more than eight characters, include a variety of letters and numbers and not be the name of your pet dog called Toby.

If you are clever enough to remember, even better would be to choose a random word not in the dictionary, that will fox them.

Make it long

Your password should be a minimum of eight letters long with longer passwords even better. A three-letter password isn't going to cut it these days, well unless you want to be hacked.

Don't write it down

I've never been to your house, but I bet you you've got a piece of paper somewhere near your computer with a stack of passwords written on it for different things like your broadband access key or home wireless network.

If you've gone a bit high-tech you'll have them in an email somewhere on your computer or auto saved, to save you having to re-enter them every time. If that's the case, please tell me that you've got a screensaver with password protection on, else when you lose or have your laptop stolen you've just given them everything. 

Change your password right now

It's okay we aren't tracking what you type and you should never change your password based on a request from an email or website, however you should change your passwords every couple of months to make sure that it isn't leaked or hacked.

A good way to do it is to add an element to your current password, which loops every 12 months or every quarter for example. So Password1 for January, Password12 for December. Making them out of sequence will improve the strength of the password. You could also take this a step further and create passwords on a theme, just make sure the theme isn't your favourite hobby. If they know you are a Trekie it will be easy to know your password is Enterprise.

Don't just have one password for all sites

We know with all the social networking sites you belong to like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Flickr you've got plenty of possible passwords to remember, but whatever you do don't just make them all the same. Instead create a system that you will remember that uses a base password and then adds an element for the site in question. So if your facebook password would be PasswordFacebook (no that isn't my password for Facebook) mixing it up will make it stronger still.

Handy Tips for coming up with that strong password

Not sure where to start? Here are eight handy tips to get you started creating that super-strong password

Spelling out a word and replacing the vowels with numbers: P4ssw0rd

Taking a phrase and crunching that into a number of letters: Would you like to go out for dinner becomes wyltgofd

Remove some of the letters: Flicker becomes Flckr

Add punctuation randomly: Pa$$word

Misspell your password: Decieve

Use two or more words: This_is_my_password

Use a really long word: Antidisestablishmentarianism

Use all of the above suggestions: WyL$g_0fdnr


This article was first published in October 2010.