Security

How secure are your passwords?

How secure are your passwords? Keep your private data and accounts safely locked away with these security tips.
Cocoon Labs

We all know that strong passwords are key to keeping our gadgets, online accounts and personal data secure. Then, why do so many of us use the same passwords across all our accounts and never change them? There’s a perception that it’s too difficult to keep passwords as secure as they should be, but there are ways to easily manage your passwords and better protect your data, privacy and online presence.

A good password is long, complex and unpredictable. You’re not alone if you read that to mean “difficult to remember”.  Here are 3 easy ways you can make your passwords more secure and, where needed, more memorable too.

1) Use a password manager

Tech reporter James Vincent updates a famous Baz Luhrmann song lyric to give this bit of advice:

IF I COULD OFFER YOU ONE TIP FOR THE FUTURE, PASSWORD MANAGERS WOULD BE IT

His article about password managers is a great guide on getting started with them. Explaining the simple reasons a password manager is so important for our increasingly digital lives.  “You need strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts, otherwise the chances they’ll get hacked by some unscrupulous character are much higher. If your passwords aren’t strong (e.g., if they’re one of these, or if they use information like your spouse’s name and birth year) then hackers can guess them. And if you use the same ones for different sites, when some big company gets hacked (like they do all the time) your digital keys are basically available online for anyone to grab.”

A trusted password manager can solve these problems, simply. They generate strong unique passwords for you and store them safely in the cloud for convenient access across all your devices. Remembering them so you don’t have to. Lastpass, Dashlane, IdentitySafe and Password Safe are reputable services you can try.

Keeping your password manager safe

Password managers make managing numerous account logins easier and generate secure passwords for you. But you need a strong memorable password for your password manager and email accounts too. These are the two places most rich in your personal data, so keep them safe with strong memorable passwords using the tips below.

2) Be unpredictable, but personal

Passwords should have a combination of alphanumeric, uppercase, lowercase, and symbols. Many accounts insist on this, not accepting anything without that level of complexity. The problem is, humans are predictable. Based on this advice, we often follow predictable patterns to create passwords like:  S3cur1ty!

If your password is like everyone else’s then it’s easy to guess. Mix it up, try creating some rules that are personal to you. That way you’re much more likely to remember them.

For example, if you’re from a family with three siblings, you could always replace the first letter from their names with the number that reflects when they were born. So if Tom was the oldest, then Lucy and the youngest was Anthony – you could replace all Ts with a 1, Ls with a 2 and As with a 3. You might know some twins where both have names beginning with W, you could then replace every W with &.

3) Use strings of words and acronyms

Creating your passwords from strings of disconnected words, with added numbers and symbols, makes them much harder to crack. Similarly, taking the first letters of every word in a longer phrase, to make an acronym, can make passwords much less predictable and more memorable. For example:

  1. Think of a phrase that means a lot to you. It could be something your grandmother said, the lyrics to a song or a phrase from a film. Something you easily remember other than your birthday or address. If you’re a Lenny Kravitz fan you might use: Let’s go and see the stars, The milky way or even mars.
  2. Use the first letters of each word to create an acronym. In this case that would be lgaststmwoem
  3. Add some numbers and special characters based on the above strategy of being unpredictable. This might end up as 2g3s1s1m&oem – a strong password and because it’s based on your personal rules, easy to remember.

A bonus tip

We would always recommend using two-factor authentication, as an extra level of security, on all of your accounts that offer it. PC Mag explains what this is and how to set it up.

Got kids? Worried about keeping them safe growing up in a digital world? Here is how we keep our kids safe online.