How To Choose Good Passwords For Your Personal & Work Accounts

Passwords exist to protect user data in both personal and work-related accounts. No password provides 100% protection; but a strong password often makes the effort required to breach it significantly higher than the value of information gained.

Because personal information and work data have such high value today (passwords sell on the black market for thousands of dollars for personal information, and potentially millions for work data), password vigilance is more important than ever. The first step to insuring password vigilance is creating a password that cannot be easily discovered through a brute force hack. The following guidelines will help individuals choose strong password for both work and personal data:

Avoid using publicly accessible, personal information:

Most people include some personal information in a password to easily remember it. This is fine if the information is incredibly obscure. For example, the name of a favorite teddy bear that is only known to close family members is safe; using the name of a current family pet or a relative’s birthday is not.

The longer the password, the better:

When using only lowercase letters, each additional character of a password raises the number of possible combinations exponentially by a factor of 26. Thus, there are roughly 600 times as many possibilities for a 12-letter password than a 10-letter password. At 16 characters, a password has so many possibilities that it’s nearly impossible to discover it via a brute force hack.

Numbers and special characters belong in the middle:

Most password requirements include numbers or a special character. These characters don’t add much strength at the start or end of a password; they are best in the middle. A good trick is to replace letters with a number or character that is similar, like replacing an “a” with an @ symbol.

Use ink and paper if writing down a password:

Some people need to write down passwords to remember them. The password should be stored in a wallet, purse, or other well-guarded area; and never near a computer or in an electronic file.

A little effort goes a long way:

Creating a good password requires effort. Most passwords are created in a few seconds, which is why they are often weak. Spending a little extra time, even just a minute, increasing the length of a password or adding special characters pays off by making the password exponentially more difficult to crack.

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