The first point of entry of any computer security system is, of course, the password. But just how secure are most passwords? The truth is, not very. Most people use passwords that are fairly easy for someone who knows them to guess (or in the case of Sarah Palin, someone who can find information about them on the internet).
So, what makes a good strong password?
Use at least 8 digits, preferably more, for your password. My average secure password is 11 digits long. Some are longer, some are shorter.
Don’t use just text for your passwords. The more different characters you use, the harder your password is to crack. For instance, using both upper and lower case letters doubles the number of possible characters in your password. Adding numbers increases it by ten. You can increase that number further by adding special characters such as !, #, $, %, (, and others allowed by your system.
Don’t use your capital letter just at the start and your numbers and/or special characters just at the end. Mix it up. Put the capital letters and numbers scattered through the password.
Don’t use words in the dictionary for your password. If you need a word to help you remember the password, misspell the word. Make Lotion into lOshuN. Use numbers to replace letters, like “5” for “S”, or “0” for “O”, or “1” for “L”. Use your imagination.
Make up a sentence you can remember, and use the initial letters for your password. Example: “I always wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up” would become “1aWtbw!gU”. You’ll notice I substituted both a “1” and an “!” for the I’s in that sentence. Be creative!
Avoid Known Information
Remember, avoid birthdays, anniverseries, names of children, pets or parents, and other easily researched information for your password. Be obscure, just not so obscure that you can’t remember it yourself.
Remember, the strongest password in the world won’t protect the network if your password is written down where someone can find it. Over the years, I’ve found passwords on notes stuck to monitors, slipped under the keyboard tray, in the desk drawer with the pencils, and in many other obvious places. Needless to say, don’t do that! If you need a reminder of your password, keep it under lock and key.
One last tip. Like most folks these days, you probably have multiple places on-line requiring passwords. Don’t use the same password for every location. I have several password levels I use. I have a generic, simple, not-very secure password that I use for places like forums where I don’t really care if I get hacked. For work related sites, I use a pretty secure password, but not generally my best. For financial sites like the bank or credit card, I use my super-duper, heavy duty, you’re gonna have to work to hack this, password.
This way, for the sites that I visit daily, like blogs and forums, I have one, easily remembered password to access them. For other places, like my work related sites, I have a password that’s strong and uses many of the tips listed above. It would take some time and effort to hack. But for really important sites, like where my money is concerned, my password is so strong even I have trouble remembering it sometimes *laughs*.
In summary, remember to keep your passwords strong and don’t post them where anyone else can find them.
This post is continuing my series on Computer Security/Maintenance.