Choosing a Good Password

It is important to create strong passwords to keep your computer, email, online banking accounts, and other services safe. Many password protected websites have password requirements, such as length and use of numbers, letters, and symbols. Here are some tips to creating a safe and secure password.

  1. Make your password long – 6 characters is OK, 10 characters is good, and 15 characters is excellent. 15 is really desirable for high-level security, because 15 is a special number in Microsoft Windows. At 14 characters and less, Windows passwords are scrambled as “hashes” (encrypted into unseen scrambled characters), and stored in hidden Windows system files. It is possible for a talented hacker to access those stored hashes and unscramble your passwords. However, MS Windows no longer stores hashed passwords at 15 characters and longer. Yes, it is annoying to type 15 characters just to log into your account, but some situations may merit the effort.
  2. Start designing the password with a memorable meaningful phrase.  Then make it complex by adding numbers and special characters. Here is how you do it:
    1. Pick a word or multi-word phrase that is meaningful to you.
    2. Mix one or two letters to be upper case.
    3. Then change one or two letters to be numbers.
    4. Then for the sneaky twist: insert one or two non-alphabetic characters. The beginning or end of the password is easiest for memorization purposes. Examples include: .(period), !, *, %, &, or #.
    5. Here are some password examples.
  3. Change your password every 4 weeks. Many employers who are serious about protecting their data will require their employees to change their password on a regular basis, once a month at minimum. It is a good practice to do the same on your home computer if you keep private financial information.
  4. Do not store your password on paper or with storage software. Please avoid password-keeper programs that claim to make your life easier. Password products do not offer enough protection for your login information should your computer get hacked. It is better to memorize a password whenever possible. Never keep your passwords on a piece of paper under the keyboard or in your wallet. Do not keep them in your PDA either; if you must store your passwords at all, keep the passwords’ hints instead. For example, as an alternative to storing “Dexter2Cheese” use “puppy’s name, age and favorite snack”.
  5. Use different passwords for your different computer accounts. As annoying as it is to remember them all, you should create a different password for your email, for your online banking, for your eBay and your PayPal. If one of your passwords is ever compromised, at least the rest of your accounts will not be at risk.

Examples of Password Strength

OK Password:    Better Password:    Excellent Password:   
kitty 1Kitty 1Kitty@
susan Susan53 .Susan53.
jellyfish jelly22fish Jelly22fish&
smellycat sm3llycat $Sm3llycat$
warcrafter warcrafter77 %Warcrafter77@
suzukirider suzuk1r1der =Suzuk1r1der=