Are you using strong passwords?

Although my refrigerator doesn’t yet require a password for access, practically everything else does and they need to be far more secure than in the past. If you have been using the same password for all of your accounts, or you use a basic password like “password123” (which people apparently STILL use, for some strange reason), then you need to pay some attention to this post and implement its suggestions.

Creating strong passwords
Many websites requiring you to create a password for a new account are specifying and enforcing password rules. For example, you may be required to enter a password with a minimum number of letters and/or numbers, special characters (such as % or *), and avoid using consecutive characters or numbers. The underlying reason for these restrictions is that hackers and other criminals intent on breaking into your account and stealing the information contained therein have password-breaking software tools at their disposal that are far more powerful than they were several years ago. Passwords that are more complex in nature are far more difficult to break.

I won’t get into a discussion of the software algorithms required to break different types of passwords but consider the three examples below:

Example #1: Password123

Example #2: Passw0rd123

Example #3: Password!@#

All three passwords utilize the same number of characters, but notice that in examples 2 and 3, different characters have been introduced that actually make the password harder to break. In example #2 the “o” has been replaced with “0”, while in example #3 each number has been replaced with the equivalent symbol that appears on that number key. A password of PasswOrd!@# is even stronger yet.

Having said that, any derivation of “Password123” as a password is no longer sufficient so you need to step it up a little. An easy way to generate a strong password is to use a phrase as your password. For example, since I like to drink coffee, a possible password phrase could be “Chris likes to drink coffee”.

Make your strong passwords even stronger
A phrase as a password will make your life a little easier but the approach is not sufficiently ideal because, although it contains 23 characters, this phrase consists of all real words that can be found in any English language dictionary. Password-breaking software algorithms cycle through real words as they attempt to ascertain your password. But if I apply what we have learned from the discussion and examples above, I can modify some of the characters in the phrase and turn it into something like “Chr1$ L1ve$ T0 Dr1nk C0ffee”. This is a much stronger password because it features letters, numbers, and special characters, and does not include any real English language words.

Consistent conventions
The obvious caveat with using special characters in this manner is that you need to establish a convention for how you utilize special characters and numbers in your phrase passwords and then use that convention consistently. For example, using “$” for either “s” or ‘S”, use “1” for “i” or “I” and so on is a good convention to use. Avoid using different symbols for the same character in different phrase passwords; consistency with your naming convention is vital or you will quickly lose control and find yourself relying on the ubiquitous Forgot your password? function to gain access to your accounts.

Has this blog post helped you create more secure passwords? Comment below and let me know.

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About Shy Witness™

My blog posts range from observations about current events to technology tips and the antics of my dog Sandy and her brother Morgan View all posts by Shy Witness™

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