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Do You Have a Strong Password?

David Eichkorn
09/29/2020
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No one wants to be hacked – but if you use a simple password, you’re practically opening the door to your online life and inviting a hacker in.

Did you know about 70% of the world's most popular passwords can be cracked in less than a second? Yikes!

It’s time to trade in your weak passwords for stronger ones that will actually protect you.

Top 100 Worst Passwords

Who doesn’t like being popular? But when it comes to passwords, popularity is dangerous. Every year, companies like NordPass evaluate millions of leaked passwords to reveal the most popular – and worst – ones.

Alarmingly, the list doesn’t change much from year to year, meaning plenty of people are still using these bad passwords. In fact, recent research found that 1 out of every 142 passwords is 123456. Talk about making it easy for a hacker.

If you see any of your current passwords on this list, change them right away.

E20-045_Bad-Passwords

How to Strengthen Your Passwords

So you need to improve your passwords – but how? What makes a strong password? First, some tips:

  • Don’t use words from the dictionary. Hackers use thousands of dictionary words when attempting to brute force their way into an account.
  • No short or easy-to-guess passwords.
  • Don’t use simple keyboard patterns (such as qwerty).
  • Avoid using personal info like kids’ or pets’ names or an address.
  • Stay away from celebrity names and terms from pop culture and sports.
  • Don’t ever repeat your passwords across multiple accounts.
  • Longer passwords are better. Try for atleast 11 characters.

With the above points in mind, it’s time to create your password. Here are 3 techniques that can help.

Use a Sentence

Think of a sentence that has meaning for you. It could be a line from a favorite book or poem. Maybe it’s a saying from your family. You could even use a song lyric.

Once you’ve selected your sentence, use shortcuts, abbreviations, and acronyms to condense it into a single password.

Some examples:

  • Mdawgh8stv3t = My dog hates the vet.
  • 2BorNot2B_ThatIsThe? = To be or not to be, that is the question.
  • WOO!TPwontSB = Woohoo! The Packers won the Super Bowl!

Put Together a Passphrase

A passphrase is a string of multiple words one after the other. This is a simple way to create a long password. Plus, a passphrase is easier to remember than a bunch of upper- and lower-case letters, symbols, and numbers.

Imagine a scene that includes 4-6 unrelated words – perhaps “seedchipmunksquirrelbirdpole.” Whenever you need to remember your passphrase, just picture the image in your mind.

Try the Person-Action-Object Method

For this technique, you need a place, a person, an action, and an object. Start by choosing an interesting place (Yellowstone). Next, select a familiar or famous person (Mozart). Then imagine a random action and random object (Mozart riding a zebra at Yellowstone). The weirder, the better. Our brains are better at remembering outlandish, unusual scenarios.

Take the first 3 letters from “riding” and “zebra” to create “ridzeb.” Repeat these same steps for three more stories. Finally, combine your made-up words together, and you'll have an 18-character password that'll be familiar to you but seem completely random to other people.

Take the Next Step

Now you have a collection of long, strong passwords – but don’t stop there. It’s easy to do even more to protect your accounts.

Enable 2-factor authentication. It verifies that it’s really you logging in to your account. For example, you have to enter a code that was texted to you before your login is completed. It only takes a few extra seconds – a small price to pay considering 2FA can stop an unauthorized login even if a hacker is using your correct password.

Use a password manager. These free tools encrypt and store all of your passwords. Then they automatically insert your password when you log in to an account. Some managers even include a random password generator that creates hard-to-crack passwords with the click of a mouse. Popular password managers include LastPass, 1Password, and Dashlane.

Learn More

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