How to Create a Strong Password: Your First Line of Digital Defense

How to Create a Strong Password: Your First Line of Digital Defense

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Passwords are a pain. To be effective, they need to be long and complex, using a mix of characters, and you need a unique one for every account. Most people have a hard time remembering strong passwords, which is why we are all tempted to take shortcuts or reuse passwords to make them easy to remember. But there are some tricks you can use to make strong passwords easy to remember and hard to crack.

Make your password very long

If you just do one thing, make sure your password is long. Length is now the most important factor in determining how hackable your password is. Longer passwords are more resilient to brute force attacks, where hackers attempt to guess your password by trying all possible combinations. So, a strong password should consist of at least 16 characters.

If you need any convincing, check out the 2023 Hive Systems Password Table below to see how fast your passwords can be hacked based on the mix of numbers, letters, and symbols you use.

2023 Hive Systems Pasword Table showing the time it takes a hacker to brute force your password in 2023.

Use a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters

A strong password should include a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters, including !, @, #, $, and *. This mix increases the complexity of your password, making it harder to crack.

Use a passphrase instead of a password

One of the easiest ways to remember a long, strong password is to use a passphrase, a series of words or a sentence that is easy to remember but difficult to guess.  For example, “Eggs now cost $6.99!” is a strong passphrase that combines words, numbers, and special characters. (Yes, spaces can often be used as special characters. If they can’t, I use a period or another allowed special character.)

Avoid common words and phrases

Avoid using dictionary words, common phrases or quotes, or easily guessable information like birthdays, pet names, or favorite sports teams, books, and movie titles in your password. Hackers use information scraped from social media and dictionary attacks, where they systematically try every word in the dictionary to crack passwords.

Add two-factor authentication

Once you have a strong password, back it up with two-factor authentication (2FA). This adds an extra layer of protection, requiring not only your password but also a unique code generated by an authenticator app or sent to your mobile device or email for login.

Find out the good, better, and best options for two-factor authentication for protecting your accounts.

A strong password is essential to your online security. It’s your shield against unauthorized access to your accounts and personal information. By following the guidelines above, you can significantly bolster your digital security and enjoy peace of mind that your passwords are safeguarding your digital life.

[Image credit: Hive Systems, strong password photo concept via Adobe Firefly]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.

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