A simple guide to making strong and unique passwords

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Jordanna Kalkhof December 3, 2019

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Most of us understand what is means when we’re told to use strong passwords. They should be complicated, random, and difficult to crack. We know this, yet we don’t always do it. Why? Simple. As we create more and more accounts online, it becomes increasingly difficult to craft new, unused passwords that we can remember. In 2018, people had an average of 23 online accounts that require a password. That’s a lot of passwords.

Luckily, there are helpful solutions. Here are a few tips and tricks to craft strong and unique passwords that you can actually remember.

Things to avoid

  • Obvious and common passwords – These types of passwords are extremely unsecure and very easily guessed (123456, password, abcdef, etc.)
  • Common substitutions – Substituting letters and numbers is well-known trick for adding variety. Unfortunately, because it’s well-known, it’s not very effective. (O and 0, E and 3, etc.)
  • Repeating passwords – Each password you use should be unique. Fight the temptation to repeat passwords for the sake of memorization. This makes every account with that password vulnerable.
  • Don’t use easy-to-find personal information – Avoid names, pet names, dates, and other similar information that can be easily found about you.

Crafting your password

  • Make it long – The longer the better. Most passwords have a minimum requirement, but there’s no max. Try creating passwords that use 12+ characters.
  • Mix it up – Variability is your friend. Use a combination of letters, capitalizations, numbers, and special characters.
  • The passphrase method – Use a combination of 4-5 seemingly random words. The words may have significance to you but would seem like gibberish to anyone else. This provides the length you need, but in a way that’s easier to remember than a long strand of characters. For example: coffee goat tally lucky.
  • The sentence method – Take a sentence that you can remember and apply a rule to it. You could use the same and different rules for different accounts. For example: “Ghostery was founded in 2009!” Now apply a rule. Let’s say, take the first two letters of each word and make the first one capitalized. Your password would be GhWaFoIn2009!

Password managers

  • We have a lot to remember in our day-to-day lives. If there just isn’t enough space to remember all of your passwords, consider using a password manager. These helpful tools can not only store all of your passwords in one convenient, secure place, but can also help you generate strong passwords. Two popular password managers are LastPass and 1Password.

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