6 tips to create a strong password for any site, and keep your data secure

It’s not hard to create a strong password. ilona titova/Getty Images To create a strong

It's not hard to create a strong password.
It’s not hard to create a strong password.

ilona titova/Getty Images

  • To create a strong password, you should use a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

  • Once you’ve given one account a strong password, don’t reuse that password for other accounts — doing so means that if one account is hacked, all of your accounts can be compromised.

  • Using a password manager will help you keep track of your passwords, and allow you to create strong passwords for every account.

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Passwords can be immensely annoying, especially if you have many different accounts. Eventually, something will come along to replace them — many modern smartphones already use face or fingerprint scanners.

But right now, we have to use passwords. This means that you should know how to create strong and unique passwords to protect your accounts.

Why strong, complex passwords are important

A strong password is one that’s difficult for a hacker to crack. In general, the longer and more complex a password is, the stronger it is. 

A weak password is a simple word – something that can be found in the dictionary – or a simple and commonly used phrase like “letmein” or “password123.” Hackers have long lists of commonly used passwords, and using something like this is akin to having no password at all. 

Don't use common words or phrases.
Don’t use common words or phrases.

Thomas Trutschel/Getty Images

There are a few common methods hackers use to crack passwords, and they tend to be more successful on short and simple passwords. A dictionary attack, for example, attempts to match your password to simple words that you’d find in the dictionary. 

If your password is somewhat more complex — it’s not a single word or includes a number or symbol — then a brute force attack may succeed if the password is simple enough. A brute force attack simply tries every possible combination. As computers get faster, short and weak passwords get easier for hackers to crack. 

There are online tools you can use to see how strong your passwords are – see our article “How secure is my password” for ways to test the strength of your passwords. 

How to create a strong password

Thankfully, creating a strong password isn’t complicated. Follow these guidelines:

  • Make it long. The longer your password, the better. Many websites require passwords to be at least eight characters long (some allow as few as six characters), but unless the site limits the maximum length of the password, you should make it much longer — 12 characters is a good minimum.

  • Use a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

  • If you use a password manager (and yes, you should use a password manager), you can let the password manager automatically create a lengthy, strong password for you.

Regardless of the minimum length a website requires, strive to make your password at least 12 characters long.
Regardless of the minimum length a website requires, strive to make your password at least 12 characters long.

Dave Johnson/Business Insider

There are also some don’ts:

  • Don’t ever reuse a password — they should always be unique.

  • Don’t use symbol substitutions, like an @ symbol for the letter A. It’s not clever, and it’s easily guessed by hacking tools that try those kinds of substitutions automatically. 

  • Don’t use common words or phrases like “password” or “qwerty,” or passwords which have personal significance to you, like the names of family members. 

You should never use the same password on more than one site or service. If one of your accounts is compromised, hackers and criminals may try that password elsewhere. 

As such, if you reuse the same password, no matter how strong or complex it is, it’s possible all the accounts will be compromised through the common password.

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