We know you’ve heard it a million times already, but choosing a strong password really is important. Passwords protect your computer, online accounts, data and stop your ID or funds being used by cybercriminals. But, we also know how easy it is to fall into the trap of using your pet’s name or the ever popular (yet awful) ‘Password’. That’s why we’ve put together some tips for improving your password.
10 tips for creating a strong password and keeping your accounts secure:
- Don’t use something that is easily guessable. For example, a family member’s name or football team you support are bad ideas – with the wealth of information now available online through various platforms (social media profiles being the obvious example), with a little research your password could be guessed.
- Your password should be relatively long. Some sites have a minimum and maximum password length, but in general a good password should consist of at least 8 – 10 characters.
- Vary the characters you use in your password. Don’t just use letters in your password, use a mixture of punctuation, numbers and upper and lowercase letters. Normally, you’re not able to put a space in a password, but you could use a _ or – to indicate this instead.
- Use a sentence or line of your favourite song and modify it to make it difficult to guess. For example, you could use the sentence ‘My first car was a Renault.’ and add and change some characters, leaving you with something like ‘My1stCarw@R3n!’
- Use a combination of significant names and numbers. If you lived in Milton Keynes in 1976, your first child was born in 2001 and you went on holiday to Fiji in 2009, you could take bits from each to create the following; ‘MK76_1st01-Fij2009’ or you could swap the combination around to make it even trickier to guess; ‘Fij2009-MK76_1st01’.
- Don’t share your passwords. You may think it goes without saying, but you’d be surprised the amount of people that write their passwords down or text it to a friend that is borrowing their laptop or account. We’re not saying that your friends are cybercriminals, but phones can get hacked, information stolen etc… you get the picture.
- Don’t use the same password for all your accounts. If one account is compromised, potentially so are all the others if you are using the same password. Vary your passwords and don’t give in to temptation and use the same ones over and over!
- Change your passwords regularly. Don’t use the same password for more than a few months at a time!
- Use password management software. If remembering passwords is a headache, using a program like LastPass can really be a lifesaver. LastPass will store all your passwords for your accounts in one, incredibly secure place and generates random, complex passwords for you. You access your LastPass store with one master password (so ultimately the same rules still apply, but at least you don’t need to remember 20 different passwords that you change regularly!).
- Make sure you have good password backup or recovery options. We all forget our passwords at some time or another, but by making sure your password recovery email or phone number is up to date, you can minimise the inconvenience caused. If resetting your password requires answering a security question, make sure the answer isn’t obvious and try to make it unique. For example if it asks where you are born, don’t just use the city name, add in numbers to show the year or ward you were born on.
Passwords don’t have to be stressful. Get into a system of how you choose your password and how often you change them and before you know it, your accounts will be safer than ever and you’ll be a password master!