Weak passwords leave your computers, personal information, and accounts vulnerable to attack.
- Think of a sentence that you can remember, this will be the basis of your strong password.
- Add complexity by mixing uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers.
- It is valuable to use some letter swapping or misspellings as well.
- You can use symbols that look like letters, combine words (remove spaces) and other ways to make the password more complex.
Some common methods used to create passwords are easy to guess by criminals. To avoid weak, easy-to-guess passwords:
- Avoid sequences or repeated characters. "12345678," "222222, "abcdefg," or adjacent letters on your keyboard do not help make secure passwords.
- Avoid using only look-alike substitutions of numbers or symbols. Criminals and other malicious users who know enough to try and crack your password will not be fooled by common look-alike replacements, such as to replace an 'i' with a '1' or an 'a' with '@' as in "M1cr0&0ft" or "P@ssw0rd". But these substitutions can be effective when combined with other measures, such as length, misspellings, or variations in case, to improve the strength of your password.
- Avoid your login name. Any part of your name, birthday, social security number, or similar information for your loved ones constitutes a bad password choice. This is one of the first things criminals will try.
- Avoid dictionary words in any language. Criminals use sophisticated tools that can rapidly guess passwords that are based on words in multiple dictionaries, including words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and substitutions. This includes all sorts of profanity and any word you would not say in front of your children.
- Use more than one password everywhere. If any one of the computers or online systems using this password is compromised, all of your other information protected by that password should be considered compromised as well. It is critical to use different passwords for different systems.
- Avoid using online storage. If malicious users find these passwords stored online or on a networked computer, they have access to all your information.
Treat your passwords and pass phrases with as much care as the information that they protect:
- Don't reveal them to others. Keep your passwords hidden from friends or family members (especially children) who could pass them on to other less trustworthy individuals. Passwords that you need to share with others, such as the password to your online banking account that you might share with your spouse, are the only exceptions.
- Protect any recorded passwords. Be careful where you store the passwords that you record or write down. Do not leave these records of your passwords anywhere that you would not leave the information that they protect.
- Never provide your password over e-mail or based on an e-mail request. Any e-mail that requests your password or requests that you to go to a Web site to verify your password is almost certainly a fraud. This includes requests from a trusted company or individual. E-mail can be intercepted in transit, and e-mail that requests information might not be from the sender it claims. Internet "phishing" scams use fraudulent e-mail messages to entice you into revealing your user names and passwords, steal your identity, and more.
- Change your passwords regularly. This can help keep criminals and other malicious users unaware. The strength of your password will help keep it good for a longer time. A password that is shorter than 8 characters should be considered only good for a week or so, while a password that is 14 characters or longer (and follows the other rules outlined above) can be good for several years.
- Do not type passwords on computers that you do not control. Computers such as those in Internet cafés, computer labs, shared systems, kiosk systems, conferences, and airport lounges should be considered unsafe for any personal use other than anonymous Internet browsing. Do not use these computers to check online e-mail, chat rooms, bank balances, business mail, or any other account that requires a user name and password. Criminals can purchase keystroke logging devices for very little money and they take only a few moments to install. These devices let malicious users harvest all the information typed on a computer from across the Internet—your passwords and pass phrases are worth as much as the information that they protect.