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How to Create a Strong Password for Internet Safety

The internet and smartphone technology are key to the way I connect with others. I can't imagine life without them.

What Makes a Strong Password?

You are unique, make sure your passwords are too; that makes them harder to crack and your accounts more difficult to hack. This applies to any internet account, but especially to your online banking, and social media accounts.

A strong password is one that is difficult to guess. An expert hacker can solve most passwords given enough time. Your aim is to make a password long enough and complex enough to deter all but the most tenacious.

The advice from Microsoft is that a good password:

  • Is at least eight characters long
  • Doesn't contain your user name, real name, or company name
  • Doesn't contain a complete word
  • Is significantly different from previous passwords
  • Contains uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols

1. Use a Unique Password Generator

You may not have the confidence to create your own strong password. The answer is to either buy a device that creates unique passwords, or download an app that generates random alphanumeric symbol combinations. Personally, I prefer to use a physical password manager, as I don’t trust backing-up in the cloud. I recommend the Login Locker username and password organizer. It's the size of a credit card and easily fits into your purse or pocket. I find it's a great help as it means I don’t need to worry about remembering loads of different passwords.

The benefit of using a password manager is that once you've created the unique pass keys, you only need to memorize one master code to access them all. The Login Locker locks all your passwords and personal information securely in one place.

How to Create a Strong Password

2. Use a Reminder Sentence for Your Unique Password

Think of a sentence that is individual to you. It could be a line of your favorite song or it could be a sentence about your life. Whatever you choose, make it something that you are unlikely to forget. You need to be able to make a password that contains numbers, letters and symbols. Create your password by taking the first letter of each word. Then alter some of them to numbers and some to symbols.

For example, my sentence could be “Today is Valentine’s Day and I received twelve red roses.” Using the first letter of each word gives me the following: TiVDaIrtrr Now I change the word “twelve” into a number and the word “and” into a symbol. My new password then becomes: TiVD+Ir12rr

3. Create a Personal Formula to Remember 100s of Passwords

Having a unique password for each account means that you will need to remember tens if not hundreds of different pass-keys. Don’t despair, there’s no need to write them all down! Here is an easy way to remember all these various alphanumeric and symbol combinations. The method involves creating just one personal formula (or master code) that can be customized to suit hundreds of different situations.

  • Start with a familiar phrase and use the first letters of each word to create a root. For example, the phrase “Stand not upon the order of your going” becomes SNUTOOYG.
  • Add a number that means something special to you. Then capitalize one letter and make all the others lower case. My root word thus becomes snUtooyg61.
  • This root remains the same for all your passwords.
  • For each website or app that you need a password, you can adapt the root to suit the site. For example, for a Pinterest password, add P to the root, making the password PsnUtooyg61. Or for an Amazon password, I would add A to the root to form AsnUtooyg61.

When Was the Last Time You Changed Your Password?

It's good practice to change your password every 30 days or so. That way if it is stolen, the hacker has only a limited amount of time to access your account. If you have not changed yours lately, do it now before you forget. This is especially urgent if your password is something easy to guess like "password" or "123456".

A strong password deters thieves and hackers.

A strong password deters thieves and hackers.

How to Set Up Your Online Banking Password

Banks adhere to strict security guidelines to stop fraudsters accessing your account. If you open a new bank account, or are using online banking for the first time, you'll need to follow a one-off security procedure.

Your own bank will tell you the exact steps to follow, but they will normally include the following.

  1. To confirm you live at the address registered to the account, a pass code will be mailed to you. This will be sent by snail mail.
  2. To confirm your identity, you will be asked to take your passport, driving licence or similar proof of identity to a bank branch, or to send them by recorded delivery to the bank's head office so that they can be verified.
  3. You will then be asked to create answers to some security questions, or a unique password identifier. These will be used to confirm your identity if you use the bank's call center in the future.
  4. Once your online account has been approved and opened, you'll make-up a secret password and log-in that is known only to you. These will be used by you each time you access your account online.

Passwords Help Keep Personal Data Secure

Most of us rely on passwords for every day activities; accessing the internet, using a credit card, or gaining access to our workplace. A secure password is the key that unlocks details of your bank account, your social media accounts and your social security benefits. Your password is more valuable than gold to thieves. It can be used to steal your money or to gain access to personal information that can be used to scam you and others.

You should guard your passwords in the same way as your house keys. At home, you have a different key for each door and only lend them out to trusted family and friends. If you lose your house keys, you immediately get all the locks changed. Likewise, for passwords you should have a unique key for each account. If you “lend” the combination to a colleague, make sure you change the password on your return.

Research Shows Lax Online Security

  • One in five of us use online passwords that haven’t been changed for at least 10 years.
  • 47 per cent rely on at least one password that has not been changed for five years.
  • 73 per cent of online accounts are activated by the same password that is used for another account.
  • On average each person has just six unique passwords to protect 24 online accounts.
  • In the past year, a third of consumers had an account hacked, or password stolen, or received a notice that their personal information had been compromised.
  • 54 per cent use five or fewer passwords across their entire online life.

Research by TeleSign reported in The Daily Mail 08 Jun 2015. (Sample 2,000 UK and US consumers).

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.