Having a strong password is definitely critical to safeguarding your personal information and preventing identity theft, especially in light of more and more websites and companies’ databases becoming vulnerable to attack from hackers.
Here are the guidelines to make a strong password:
(1) 10 or more characters long. The longer the password the better, and the old guidelines of using 6-8 characters no longer applies.
(2) Use multiple character types. Combine uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters like $, #, or *.
(3) Complexity. Include letters, punctuation, symbols, and numbers. Use the entire keyboard, not just the letters and characters you use or see most often. The greater the variety of characters in your password, the better. However, password hacking software automatically checks for common letter-to-symbol conversions, such as changing “and” to “&” or “to” to “2.”
(4) Variation. To keep strong passwords effective, change them often. Set an automatic reminder for yourself to change your passwords on your email, banking, and credit card websites about every three months.
(5) Unique passwords for each account. The biggest vulnerability when it comes to password use is that many people use the same password for all their accounts. Doing this creates a single point of failure–if or when a hacker gets access to your password, it’s like unlocking all of your accounts unless you use unique passwords everywhere.
(6) Manual entry. Disable or decline the feature for a program to auto-remember your password. Enter it manually when required.
(7) Password recovery. Use uncommon answers to your password recovery or challenge questions. The answers to those questions should be things no one else would be able to know about you or find online. Make up a false answer that is unique and you can remember.
Checking Password Strength:
There are several tools you can use to see how strong your password, i.e., how long it would take a program to crack. Microsoft’s password checker is a simple tool that rates your password strength, while the Password Meter gives you a more detailed view into your password’s combination of characters. How Secure Is My Password? will tell you about how long it would take a computer to crack your password.