How to Create Strong Passwords: The Foundation of Your Online Security

The foundation of your online security is strong password protection. This is your first line of defense against hackers and malware, so it is imperative that your passwords are tough to crack yet easy to remember. After all, you are protecting the device itself as well as any account with a login. If you use a different password for each account, as security experts recommend, you are looking at a laundry list of passwords. Making them easy to remember yet difficult to hack isn’t quite as difficult as you expect, and with our advice, it will be even easier. Next step, becoming the password manager of the century.

Strong password? So what?

Why you want a strong password

The importance of strong passwords seems obvious, but the number of people who discount this basic security measure always surprise us. Think of the information stored in your computer or on your cloud: bank records, tax records, photographs, your list of the Top 5 Harry Potter characters of all time, and any other shenanigans you may be into but are nobody else’s business. After all, you do not need someone bursting into your WoW account and making off with the gold you devoted a month of Sundays to collect. And, that is just your "play" money… imagine how you will feel if your actual money is withdrawn by someone else from your bank account.

How hackers break your passwords

For most of us, guessing someone else’s password is more of an intellectual exercise, maybe a personal friendship challenge over a few drinks. Hackers, on the other hand, are no friends. They take it very seriously and devote time, effort, technology, and money to crack your passwords, in turn, accessing your personal information. One common method of password decrypting is by brute force attacks; i.e. repeated attacks and algorithmic attempts to combine the correct characters in order to grant access to your system. According to Edward Snowden, it could take a computer less than a second to break an 8 character password by this method. Taking it a step further, hackers also can use the dictionary to try to break any permutations of your password.

Next, hackers will use any existing personal information they can get from public websites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) like pet names, family names, birthdays, addresses, etc, and try any common combinations. For example, last name and date of birth, or pet name with your birthdate, or home address with the year you moved. Obviously, if you share your password/passwords with anyone, you are immediately opening up yourself to an online cyber attack as your sanctity is no longer in your possession. Even BFFs have arguments which can lead to malicious actions. Besides, you never know how well those people you trust will protect your password. For all you know, it’s written on a sticky note and hanging on a cubical wall.

What not to do

Here is another obvious piece of advice, but one which is often overlooked: Do not ever, ever, ever use the word PASSWORD for your password. Even with any combination, it is the easiest password to crack. Not even if you switch up caps and lowercase, substitute a zero for the O, or use a dollar sign for the S. In fact, don’t use any word found in the dictionary if possible. In addition, using pet names, family members, or passwords with less than 10 characters. Finally, please, try not to ever write down your passwords anywhere. If you think about it, you probably wouldn’t write down your social security number on a sticky note and place it on your desk at work for convenience. Why? Because it is your identity in a nut shell and you never want other people to know it. Well, now I will ask you, would you want to write down a password which not only just has your Social Security number attached to that account, but your addresses, taxes, bank information, emails regarding your online statement, etc? Once again, probably not. So, keep your information yours!

The secret to strong passwords

A few simple recommendations

Strong passwords are long and complex, but not necessarily hard to remember. Ideally, they meet five criteria.

  • At least 10 characters long
  • Contains at least one lowercase letter
  • Contains at least one uppercase letter
  • Contains at least one number
  • Contains at least one special character

Okay, no you are wondering how to create a simple, but memorable, 10 character password (for each account, nonetheless!) without writing them down, right? This is where you should take Edward Snowden’s advice and not think of a password as a single word, but as a passphrase. For example, if you have a account, have a "passphrase" which relates to travel; i.e. "I hate traveling for work but I need a paycheck!" turns into "Ih8t4wbInap!". This makes a great choice, is an easy enough passphrase to remember, and meets all criteria. It looks like nonsense but in reality in it is the most sensible password you can have.

If you are worried about remembering your passwords, technology is here to help as always. You can use a password managers such as LastPass or even create a password protected document within your Cloud. If you go this route, however, you will have to make a password to protect your passwords… meaning this password needs to be the strongest! Isn’t is sad what we have become? We need a password to protect our passwords!

Add an extra layer of protection with a VPN

As we said earlier, any password at the end of the day is vulnerable to hackers. Adding another layer is always a good idea, and even with strong passwords, everything is vulnerable to attack while using public wifi. By using a VPN, you encrypt your connection as well as hide your IP address as you are rerouted to the VPN’s specific servers. For example, if you chose ZenMate, all your data while browsing online will be encrypted, therefore protecting your online sessions and browsing data. We are a company of trust and openness, so feel free to have a browse and look at all VPN’s before making your choice, as freedom to decide for yourself is a founding principle of online freedom.

Protect your privacy, security, and online freedom for 1 month, free.

Let your friends know!