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Creating Secure Passwords

Posted on 01/11/2012


Do you feel overwhelmed with creating passwords and remembering them for various websites you frequent? Do you find yourself making simple passwords like 12345, a first name (yours, your spouse's, or your child's), asdf (keys next to each other on the keyboard), or even the word "password?" Unfortunately, these are among the most common passwords that are easy for hackers to figure out. Perhaps not surprisingly, password-cracking software is readily available to assist cyber thieves in stealing passwords, which can lead to hacking into bank accounts, credit card accounts, etc. One of your best defenses to safeguarding your accounts is to have secure passwords.

Here are some universal recommendations to create secure passwords:

  1. Make the password at least 8 characters long.
  2. Use a mix of characters (lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and symbols).
  3. Don't use a name, any personal information, simple alphanumeric combinations, keys next to each other on the keyboard, or any word found in the dictionary.
  4. Don't use the same password for all your accounts, especially ones that house sensitive information.
  5. Change your passwords every so often (and especially to financial institutions every 1 to 3 months).

Here are two helpful, short articles about password security:

  1. http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/passwords-create.aspx [www]
    Notice the table in the middle about using sentences for creating complex passwords.
  2. http://depts.washington.edu/engl/help/old_pass.html [www]
    From the University of Washington.

Check the strength of a password here (weak, medium, strong, or best):
https://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/password-checker.aspx [www]

With all your secure passwords, how will you remember them? If you choose to write them down, make sure you keep them in a safe place (not on a post-it on your computer monitor!). There are encrypted software programs for managing your passwords. Here is a comparative list of some options:
http://password-management-software-review.toptenreviews.com/ [www]

This is article is from a weekly Tech Tip sent out by Cindy Wislofsky & Donna Price, Technology Resource Teachers at San Diego Community College District Continuing Education