How to Create Strong Passwords You Won’t Forget

6 November 2015

From your social media accounts, to your online banking profile, to even your computer itself, passwords are the virtual keys that allow you access to your accounts. Behind the login doors they open lives everything from personal details, like your address, to your bank account and routing numbers, which makes strong passwords essential to protecting yourself from identity theft.

As more and more internet-based services make their way into our lives we continue to accrue additional accounts, and therefore more passwords, to manage. With so many sites, all of which with unique rules dictating just how complex their passwords have to be, it gets harder and harder to remember your passwords. Faced with this difficulty, many people cut corners. However, using the same password for multiple accounts or making them easy to guess is an open invitation to hackers and fraudsters to jump in and steal your information, much like leaving the keys in the ignition of your car would be to a car thief.

Instead of setting “password” as the keyword for your next account, try using these tips to come up with a secure password that’s also easy to remember.

According to Microsoft, a strong password:

  • Is at least eight characters long
  • Does not contain your user name, real name or company name
  • Does not contain a complete word
  • Is significantly different from previous passwords
  • Contains at least one lowercase letter, one uppercase letter, one number and one symbol.

Keeping the above guidelines in mind, use the following tips to come up with a password that is as easy to remember as it is secure:

  • Create an acronym from an easy to remember phrase, replacing a few sections with numbers or symbols. For example: “Each hockey team has 6 people on the ice” could become “3hTh6p0t!”
  • Substitute numbers, symbols and misspellings for letters or words in a phrase you will remember. For example: “Another brick in the wall” could become “An0th3r bR!c !n t43 w@7L”

Once you’ve set up strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts, it’s important to make sure they won’t be compromised by easy-to-answer security questions. With so much information about all of us available online, it can be difficult to find a question whose answer you haven’t shared on social media. If your friends can tell what your pet’s name is or where you went to high school just by looking at your Facebook profile, then choosing questions like these as your security questions is as good as posting your password online for anyone to use.

To put a unique spin on standard questions, consider applying the same rules for forming a password onto your security question responses. If you are asked what your first pet was named, try setting the answer to “F!d0” instead of “Fido” to protect yourself against those who were able to find the answer online.

While these practices can help protect your identity from those hoping to pry their way into your accounts using your password, there is unfortunately no way to completely eliminate the risk of identity theft especially in a digital environment where phishing and malware can compromise your data without you realizing. For these instances, credit monitoring companies can be extremely helpful, alerting you to certain activity on your account that may indicate fraud, giving you the best chance to take action before an identity thief can do any lasting damage.