The passwords we use online are usually the only barrier that keeps prying eyes away from our personal information such as our emails, social networking profiles, online banking services and more.
Despite the threat of from hackers, basic passwords such as 123456 and even ‘password’ itself are still being used by some users.
These careless habits are making it simpler for hackers to deduce and compromise your data.
Here are some tips on how to make your passwords as secure as possible.
Can I use the same password for lots of different sites or services?
We all do it, but deep down we know we shouldn't. The problem with reusing the same password across multiple different sites or services is that if criminals managed to compromise one site and steal usernames and passwords, they'll often try those same combinations across other sites. They know just how often people rely on a single password across all their accounts, so don't do it.
How do I make my password secure, but also memorable?
The very best passwords are ones that are easy for you to remember but difficult for anyone else to guess.
That's not actually as difficult as it sounds. To create a strong password try creating an acronym from an easy-to-remember piece of information. For example, create a phrase that has meaning to you, such as 'What's my favourite pet from my youth called? Terry', using this easy to remember phrase you might create a related password of 'WmfpfmYc?7'.
It's always a good idea to include numbers, symbols and upper-case letters, as these make a password much harder to crack.
How long should my password be?
The longer the better. Wherever possible you should choose a password that's eight characters long or more, and most sites won't let you use a password that's shorter than seven characters anyway.
However, simply having a longer password doesn’t mean it's a strong password.
A password that includes your full name and date of birth is likely to be quite long, but it's not secure at all if someone already has access to that information. Instead, follow our tip about creating a memorable phrase and then make sure the password mixes upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and symbols.
What other strategies are there for creating passwords?
There are other ways you can devise a strong password.
We recently reported on a new method involving poems that allow you to make the safest password possible – find out how it works here.
There’s also a technique called Diceware, which requires you to use a dice and the Diceware Word List.
It works by matching the numbers rolled to the Diceware Word List to generate a word – creating a password that is truly random.
For example, if you roll 23454, that would create the word ‘droll’. Repeat the process a couple more times and you’ll generate a totally random set of words that you can use as your password. Read full instructions about how it works here.
Once I create a password I can just keep using it forever, right?
Wrong. The longer you use the same password, the more likely it is to be compromised. When it comes to very sensitive services such as online banking, it's a good idea to change your password every month or at the very least every three months. If you think you're likely to forget to do this it's a good idea to add a reminder to your calendar.
I don’t think I'm capable of keeping track of lots of different passwords. Is there anything else I can do?
You're not alone in this. Many of us struggle with what's now known as Password Fatigue because we struggle to remember multiple passwords.
One solution that doesn't involve compromising your security is to use password management software such as Password Safe or KeePass. These utilities can be used to store all your passwords in a secure, encrypted database that is locked by a single secure key or key file. It takes the hassle out of remembering lots of password, but is much more secure that simply using the same password across multiple different sites and services.
Do you have any tips or techniques for keeping your online passwords safe? Let us know in the Comments section below.