The first digital password I created was to an AOL account that was primarily used for instant messaging. When I made the switch to Gmail, I entered my trusty password again figuring it would be easy to remember. As I signed up for online banking, shopping, social media sites and more, I continued using the same password with slight modifications made in response to vexing password strength requirements. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized I was putting my finances and personal information at risk.
The use of a consistent password across websites and systems is tempting. The trouble is, once a password is compromised, it’s easy for hackers to test it in other common places, like major bank websites or Amazon, and create a mess that can take months to clean up. Yet the multitude of logins many of us perform each day makes the task of creating a secure password for each of them seem daunting.
Fortunately, there are three steps to creating a secure password you will remember.
1. Come up with a sentence about something unique that will be easy to remember but difficult to guess. The longer the sentence, the better. Be sure to include at least one upper case letter, lower case letters and a punctuation mark. The sentence could be a random fact from your childhood, a quote from your favorite book or an old saying you love. Most systems and websites allow for spaces in passwords except for at the beginning or end. If the site you are on doesn’t allow for it, simply write the sentence without spaces.
Spot was my first dog.
2. Swap out at least one letter in each word for a special character or number that it resembles. This will make it easy for you to remember, but nearly impossible for a computer program that searches alphabet words to crack. For our example, you could use the number 0 instead of the letter o, an @ instead of the letter a and a $ to replace an S.
Sp0t w@s my fir$t d0g.
3. Come up with a simple code you can add to the sentence that refers to each individual website or system login. For our example, you could add a hashtag – the pound or number sign – and the first letter of each website or system at the end of the sentence.
Example for Facebook Login:
Sp0t w@s my fir$t d0g.#F
Example for Gmail Login:
Sp0t w@s my fir$t d0g.#G
If you update your sentence every six months and alternate the placement of your code, your password will be nearly impossible to crack.
If this strategy isn’t for you, but you’re concerned about your password security, consider signing up for a password manager such as Last Pass or 1Password. These systems generate unique passwords for your logins and allow you to access them when you need them on your different personal devices.
To keep your passwords extra secure, always sign up for multi-factor authentications when they are available, such as the fingerprint touch identification available on today’s smartphones. Many of these are optional today, but will become universal in the future.
Stay ahead of the curve and keep your personal information protected!