Creating Secure Passwords
June 6, 2013 5:06:43 PM PDT
Use this checklist to create and remember passwords and to assure the security of your data, computer, and networks.
Common passwords invite hackers and viruses to access your personal data. Increase your protection with these techniques:
- Use at least 6 characters — although 7 are preferable. Maximums and miminums vary with applications.
- Don't use names or words of more than 4 letters found in the dictionary. Try substituting numbers for vowels if your password is identified as a dictionary word.
- Avoid strings of numbers such as a birth date, social security number, or phone number.
- Mix upper- and lower-case letters.
- Include symbols in addition to letters and numbers.
- Avoid consecutive numbers or letters from the alphabet or keyboard.
Experts strongly advise against writing down your passwords. Instead, follow these methods to remember them:
- Combine memorable words and numbers to make a more secure password, such as J3o8h46n, based on John's name and his birth date of 3/8/46.
- Use a system of themes and replacement keys. For example, use names of fruits, such as orange, tangerine, and apple, for a password theme. Then use symbols to replace certain letters in the passwords, e.g., use # to replace the letter N and [ in place of E.
- Base your password on a familiar poem or song. For instance, "In Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree ..." could be InXd2K, a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters and a number.
Optimize password security with these practices:
- Log out or start a password-protected screensaver when your workstation is not in use.
- Don't use the same password for all purposes.
- Don't share passwords with others or send them via e-mail.
- Don't let your Web browser remember your passwords. Public or shared computers allow others access to your password.