Just last month, a highly disturbing security bug called Heartbleed was exposed that allows hackers to penetrate into servers and obtain the victim’s personal information. This bug affects OpenSSL, a data encryption standard commonly used between a user’s computer and the server.
The best way to guard yourself against Heartbleed or any unauthorized access to your account is not only to change passwords periodically but also to use a strong one that can’t easily be broken into. Below is a rundown on how you can create a strong password that would be difficult for any intruders to guess.
Common passwords are a BIG no-no
If you want a strong password, avoid using letters or numbers like ‘asdfghl’ or ‘123456’. Birthdates, anniversary dates, dictionary words, usernames, phone numbers or license plates and even the word ‘password’ are easily the first few things that hackers will try to crack first so don’t make the mistake of using them.
Do not use the same password for all accounts
If a hacker was able to unlock one password, chances are, he can access to all your other accounts if you use the same password, especially if every account is connected by the same email address. Make sure that each password is unique from your previous and current passwords.
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Make passwords long enough
The longer the password, the better as this can prevent unauthorized access on your computer. Microsoft recommends passwords should be at least eight characters long and a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Some websites may also prompt you their basic requirements to guide you in creating strong passwords.
Choose a pattern from the keyboard
Another great option is to draw a certain pattern or shape on a keyboard. To illustrate, if you choose a pyramid pattern starting with number 4, then the result would be “4Rfvgy765$%^&”. You can capitalize any of the letters and add the symbols associated with the numbers. That may look like a tough password but you know it’s easy to recall it once you remember the pyramid pattern.
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Put a twist to correctly spelled words or phrases
One way to make a simple password difficult to guess is to misspell them. How? Just replace some letters with numbers or special characters. So if you’re using “I love ice cream!”, then transform it to its misspelled version: “ iluvic3Cr3am!”.
Another option is to create a sentence that you can remember easily. Example, “I have two pet cats: Leo and Tubby.” Then take out the first letters for each word, turn some letters into numbers or add some punctuations. This sentence will now become: “Ih2pc:l&t.”
Test the password
If you’re not sure if your password is strong enough, then test it at How Secure Is My Password?. It will tell you how long an average desktop PC will take to crack it. So, “marcylynn” will be cracked within 22 minutes, while “Marcy%lynn83)” will take 344 thousand years to guess. These results will tell you that throwing in a capital letter, special characters and numbers can further strengthen the password.
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Manage passwords using an app
If the above tips doesn’t help, there are many reliable password manager tools to help you in managing passwords. This is good for those with poor memory and don’t want to repeat the same password across multiple sites. All you need is one master password, then the app will generate a secure password for each site and save them in an encrypted database. Two of the best password manager tools are LastPass and Dashlane. Both can be downloaded free or on a premium edition.