In today‘s world of rising cybercrime, weak passwords can leave your personal information and accounts vulnerable. Learning how to create strong, unique passwords is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your online security.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about crafting strong passwords, from password security basics to common password mistakes to avoid. You’ll also get tips, tools, and real-world examples to help you create more secure passwords for all your online accounts.
What Makes a Password Strong?
Before diving into examples, let‘s overview the key elements that make up a strong password:
Longer passwords are exponentially harder for hackers to crack. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), you should use at least 8 characters for basic security or 12 characters for better security. Maximum length depends on the site.
Include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers 0-9, and symbols like !@#$% to boost complexity. More character types means more possible combinations a hacker would need to attempt.
Avoid any dictionary words, phrases, personal info, or sequential patterns that would be easy to guess. True randomness is best. Use a password generator to create random strings.
Every account should have its own unique password that you don’t use anywhere else. Reusing passwords across accounts makes you vulnerable if one site is breached.
While randomness is key, you also want a password you can remember, especially for frequently used accounts. Use mnemonic devices or easy-to-pronounce passwords with mixed character types.
Examples of Weak vs. Strong Passwords
Let‘s examine some real-world examples to compare weak, fair, good, and excellent passwords:
Avoid these super simple passwords based on common words, phrases, patterns, and personal info. Over 15% of internet users still use “123456” according to UK’s National Cyber Security Centre.
These are decent, using 8+ characters, mixed case, numbers, and symbols. But common words and predictable patterns make them vulnerable.
These are getting safer with 12+ characters and heightened randomness. But longer and more complex is ideal for sensitive accounts.
Long (16+ characters), fully random passwords with multiple character types are extremely difficult for hackers to crack. This is the gold standard for password security.
According to NordPass, it would take a computer over 200 years to hack a 16 character randomized password. For sensitive accounts like email or banking, excellent passwords are a must.
Expert Tips for Creating Better Passwords
How can you move beyond basic passwords and create excellent passwords like the examples above? Here are some expert tips:
Use a Password Generator
Combine random words with spaces to create longer passphrases that are easier to remember, like "correcthorsebatterystaple" or "slimyfishstrongarmclawhammer".
Build Passwords from Sentences
Take the first letter from each word in a sentence or song lyric to create a password. For example, "TheItsyBitsySpiderClimbedUpTheWaterspout" becomes Tibscutw.
Substitute letters with numbers/symbols that resemble letters. Swap S for $, I for 1, A for @. Remove vowels. Capitalize random letters.
Avoid Common Password Mistakes:
- No names, dates, addresses, or other personal info
- No reuse of old passwords
- No sequential patterns like "12345"
- No repeating characters like "111"
Make Passwords Unique
Every account should have its own strong, randomly generated password. Reusing passwords across sites is unsafe.
Change Passwords Regularly
Update passwords every 90 days, especially for email, bank, and financial accounts most vulnerable to hacking.
Consider a Pronounceable Password
Password like "ochavibezelust" have randomness plus are easier to remember. Use this Pronounceable Password Generator.
Create a System
Construct your own formula for developing passwords, like using the first letters of a favorite book or song. The key is adding randomness.
Use a Password Manager
To handle all these tough-to-remember passwords, use a dedicated password manager app like:
- 1Password: Syncs across devices with end-to-end encryption. Offers family plan.
- LastPass: Free version available. Autofills web forms.
- Keeper: Solid free option with cross-platform syncing.
A password manager generates, stores, and syncs strong, unique passwords across all your devices and accounts. All you need to remember is your master password.
|Password Manager||Free Option?||Key Features|
|1Password||No||E2E Encryption, Watchtower alerts|
|LastPass||Yes||Autofill for apps & sites|
|Keeper||Yes||Free for unlimited passwords|
Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
For accounts with sensitive info, use two-factor authentication (2FA) which requires you to enter a randomly generated code from an authenticator app or SMS text message after your password. This adds critical extra protection beyond your password alone.
Popular authenticator apps for 2FA include:
- Authy: Backs up codes in the cloud. Available cross-platform.
- Google Authenticator: No cloud backup, but trusted name.
- Microsoft Authenticator: Great for Microsoft accounts like Outlook or Xbox Live.
SMS text messages are another option for delivering your 2FA code, but authenticator apps are more secure since SMS is vulnerable to porting. Enable 2FA via either method for accounts like email, financial, and social media whenever possible.
Consider Biometric Authentication
Many mobile devices now allow biometric logins via fingerprint, facial recognition, or iris scanning. This eliminates the need to enter your password each time – just use your fingerprint to unlock your phone.
While biometrics are convenient, fingerprints can sometimes be replicated. So critical accounts still need strong passwords and 2FA too. Use your fingerprint alongside these for added ease.
How to Change Passwords Safely
As important as strong, unique passwords are, they must be updated periodically for continued safety. Here are some tips for changing passwords safely:
- Change critical passwords every 60-90 days. This includes your primary email, financial accounts, and work logins.
- Phase changes so all passwords aren‘t reset simultaneously. Change your Facebook password today, Amazon next month, Gmail the month after, etc.
- Don‘t make small tweaks like password123 > password124. Passwords need full overhauls to stay secure.
- Wait to reuse old passwords. Let 6-12 months pass before recycling a password for added safety.
- Clear your browser history/cache after changing passwords to remove traces of sensitive info.
Use your password manager to handle password changes seamlessly. Most will prompt you when it‘s time to reset old passwords.
Password Security FAQs
Let‘s review answers to some frequently asked questions about password security best practices:
What are the most commonly hacked passwords?
The NCSC reports the most hacked passwords are:
Avoid these and other easily guessed passwords.
How long should my password be?
- 8 characters for basic security
- 12 characters for better security
- 15-16+ characters for excellent security on critical accounts
How often should I change my passwords?
Change passwords for your most important accounts every 60-90 days. You can change other passwords every 6-12 months.
Is a longer password always more secure?
Length is crucial, but long passwords also need randomness and complexity. A 10 character password with upper/lowercase letters, numbers and symbols is stronger than a 15 character all lowercase word.
What are the most important password tips?
The key tips are:
- Long, random passwords (12+ characters)
- Unique for every account
- Use generators and managers
- Enable 2FA when possible
- Change passwords regularly
- Avoid personal info, common words, patterns
What is the best way to remember passwords?
Use password managers, passphrases, and pronounceable passwords. Or create your own system linking passwords to song titles, book passages, etc.
Conclusion & Key Takeaways
To summarize, here are the key takeaways for creating stronger passwords:
- Use 12+ character long passwords with maximum randomness and complexity
- Avoid personal info, dictionary words, patterns susceptible to hacking
- Generate unique passwords for every account rather than reusing passwords
- Use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass for password security
- Enable two-factor authentication for an added layer beyond passwords
- Change passwords regularly, especially for your most sensitive accounts
With these tips, you can craft strong passwords and manage them safely across all your online accounts, helping secure your digital identity and data. Be vigilant in your password hygiene, and leverage all available protections like multi-factor authentication.
Your information and accounts are only as secure as your passwords, so take time to create strong passwords that would make any hacker break a sweat. Doing so will give you greater peace of mind as you navigate an increasingly digital world.