How To Create and Remember a Strong Password

Everyone says that you should create a strong password but many people just use ones out of this 10 most common passwords list from PC World:

1. password
2. 123456
3. qwerty
4. abc123
5. letmein
6. monkey
7. myspace1
8. password1
9. blink182
10. [your first name]

I was surprised “Secret” didn’t make the cut. Of course, all of these are easy to break. So why don’t people use strong passwords? In most cases it’s because they find them too hard to remember.

What is a Strong Password

A strong password is a password that can’t easily be broken by a brute force or lookup algorithm. In practice this means a password that has the following characteristics:

1. Includes both upper and lower case letters but avoids normal capitalization rules.

2. Includes special characters, such as # or !, and/or spaces.

3. Is at least 8 characters long, but preferably 12 to 16 characters long.

4. Does not include whole words

5. Does not include sequential or common numbers such as years or dates. For example, 1234 or 1986.

6. Does not repeat any characters

How to Remember a Strong Password

OK, so you are going to use a strong password. How can you create one that you can easily remember? The trick is to link it to something that you know but that someone else, especially someone who doesn’t know you well, is unlikely to guess.

For example, let’s say you had a dog named “Bingo” and you lived at “892 Falling Oaks Lane” when you were a child. This will be the easy to remember basis of your strong password.

First, we’ll spell “Bingo” backwards and use capital letters for the second and fourth letters: oGnIb.

Now we add a special character: oGnIb%

Next, we’ll mix the number with the first letters of the address: oGnIb%8f9O2l

Notice that we kept our pattern of capitalizing the even number letters.

At this point, we have a very strong 12 character password that will be easy for you to recall but quite difficult for others to guess or a hacking program to break. You won’t have to write it down because you know both the words and pattern you used to construct it. You could make it longer for even more security by linking it to other memory triggers. Remember that each character you add greatly increases the difficulty of cracking the password.

To check out how strong your password is, you can use Microsoft’s Password Strength Tester

Now, help me out by leaving a comment with your favorite password. :)

Don’t fall for that one either!


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2007-10-25 15:18:06

The trouble I have is the software I use at work that makes me change my password every few weeks and doesn’t let you use similar words. Couple that with my bad memory and it is a real struggle to remember them!

Comment by jfc
2007-10-25 15:45:06

The trick you can use that will work with many “password must be changed” algorithms is to swap things around in a easy for you to remember pattern. Some only require a one or two character change from the previous one. If we used the sample password above a change from “oGnIb%8f9O2l” to “oGnIb#8f9O2l” might work. Another strategy is to just shift the characters each time you change the password, for example, “oGnIb%8f9O2l” then “GnIb%8f9O2lo” then “nIb%8f9O2loG” OR “oGnIb%8f9O2l” to “GnIbo#f9O2l8″ to “nIboG@9O2l8f”

If you have a 12 character password that you’re shifting you can even use the current month to quickly remember how things should be ordered.

2008-08-14 23:24:51

what I do is close my eyes, type on the keyboard, add a capital letter and a character at the end, and call it good enough. Then I write it down in my wallet and I don’t even try to memorize it.

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