As more and more of us live more of our lives online with banking, shopping, photo galleries and social networking etc. a part of our daily lives, it becomes more and more important to have secure passwords. But there are problems in remembering complex passwords when there are so many websites you have accounts with. My tip, choose one or two super-strong passwords and change the passwords on every website you have an account with to those.
The easiest passwords to crack are those that are simple words. If your password is your date of birth, dog's name, child or favourite place then I'd suggest changing them for a stronger password today. These types of password will always be the easiest to crack, with the perpetrator only needing to know minor details about the victim, things that you may already have included as public information on your Facebook or MySpace profile page. Unwittingly, you may be publicly providing the very information that criminals need to empty your bank account, steal your identity or run up huge bills on your credit cards.
The chart below details how long it would take an average PC to crack different types and lengths of password. Where does your fit in the chart?
So how do you create a super-strong password? The ideal one would contain a mixture of upper and lower-case characters with some numbers and maybe even somthing like a # or % sign thrown in. But how can you create one of these you won't forget?
There are several easy ways to make sure your password is secure. First is to remember that numbers can be substituted for words. The password wo0dy with a zero in the place of the second "o" is much more secure than the name as it's really spelt. You can increase this security even further, perhaps by making a character upper case. wo0Dy is a password that's even more secure and that could provide all the protection you need, unless...
You should try and make sure that your secure password or passwords are a minimum of six characters in length. This is because if you want to use the same password on every website they will demand that they be that long at least. Some websites will demand eight character passwords so if you can have one of those to begin with then all the better.
You can mix things up if you are short on ideas. If Woody was born in 1982 then you could use wo0DyIi982 or wo0DyI1982 where the 1 in the year is substituted for the letter "i" in either lower or upper case.
One final word of advice, your secret question. Most websites will require you to have a secret question to unlock your password if you forget it. Try and avoid choosing your mother's maiden name, place of birth or first school if at all possible, as these are things that can be found out by criminals all too easily. If you have to choose an option like this because a website forces you to, an answer such as amst3rdam# might be enough to remind you of your favourite place.
If you follow these rules then you will have a much happier and far more secure time online. And a daunting password may look like that at first, but you'll be amazed at how quickly you get used to using it.