Passwords: Do you have a ***** problem?

By Adam Turner

Passwords are a necessary evil for the foreseeable future, but there are a few tricks you can use to make life easier.

If your favourite password is 'password' then it's only a matter of time before you get hacked. Even if you're forced to choose a more complicated password, many people take the lazy option of using 'password1' and still find themselves in trouble.

Rule 1: Ditch the dictionary

The trick to creating a strong password is to devise something that is easy to remember but difficult to guess. Hackers rely on brute force attacks, trying millions of common passwords in the hope of striking it lucky. The first rule of creating a strong password is never to use a dictionary word, as that's the first thing hackers try. Using 'p4ssw0rd' won’t save you either, as hackers try that next.

Rule 2: The devil you know

The second rule is not to use the name of your children, your pets or your favourite sporting team as your password. Even people who don't know you might be able to glean these kinds of facts about you from your Facebook page or other websites. Also take care when choosing secure questions such as 'Which primary school did you attend?' Such details aren't hard to find in the internet age.

Rule 3: Neither rhyme nor reason

The best passwords are long strings, more than eight characters, which look like gibberish to anyone else but are easy for you to remember. They should contain upper and lower case letters as well as symbols and numbers. One trick is to take a phrase, lyric or rhyme and pluck out the first letter of each word. Then throw in some capitalisation, numbers and symbols for good measure. For example, the first few lines of Hey Diddle Diddle might become HdDtCaTf-TcJoTm*70. Easy for you to remember, but it looks like gibberish which is hard for a hacker to guess or a computer to crack.

Rule 4: Don't use the same password for everything

If hackers crack your Facebook password, they might try to use it to log into your other accounts. Use separate passwords for important services even if they're based on a system that is easy for you to remember. If you struggle to remember them all, consider a service such as LastPass or 1Password which can remember your passwords and even generate strong passwords for you.

Do your weak passwords leave you vulnerable? What are you going to do about it?


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