When was the last time you went to the dentist? For the majority, it’s been longer than you can remember. You know you should be going every six months, but for whatever reason you just never seem to get around to it.
Creating strong passwords is no longer a choice.
Many of you are doing the same thing with the passwords to your favorite website and mobile app accounts. You know you should be creating strong, complex passwords, and changing them regularly, but it just never gets done. “Ugh,” you say, “I have so many sites I go to, and they make me use letters, numbers, and punctuation. How am I supposed to remember all that? What’s wrong with ‘Password1?'”
But frankly, the better question is, “How am I supposed to put my life back together after identity thieves manage to crack all my accounts?”
Here’s the bad news: You have to have strong passwords. Cyber-criminals and their tools are constantly getting better, and failing to keep pace with your passwords makes you a sitting duck. Sorry, your dog’s name followed by the current year will no longer cut it.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to agonize about complex passwords. There are lots of great methods for not only creating strong, hack-resistant passwords, but also keeping them straight in your mind.
Use these tips and tricks for creating (and REMEMBERING) your passwords.
Method 1: Online Password Manager
Without question, using an online password manager is the best way to go. These are web-based tools for creating and managing strong passwords. While they tend to cost a bit of money, they make creating and changing passwords a breeze. They also allow you to easily enter your complex passwords into login fields for websites, and in some cases, mobile applications.
PCmag.com has a nice roundup of password managers here: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp
If you’re really serious about upping your password game, you’ll want to go this route.
Method 2: The DIY Approach
However, if Method 1 is beyond the scope of your budget and/or level of savvy, you can take a more DIY approach. Here’s an easy method you can use to come up with solid passwords you might have a prayer of recalling:
Pick a phrase or quote you like. I tend to use song lyrics, but literary or movie quotes also work. The more obscure it is, the better. For my example here, I’m going to use the opening line from “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors.
Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.
Take the first letter of each of those words and put them together:
Good passwords should always have capital letters, so capitalize some of them:
You don’t always have to have digits in a password, but you should add some anyway. Try to avoid using birth years or other dates that might be easily found by searching social media profiles, or elsewhere online.
You definitely want some special characters in there, even if the site doesn’t require it.
There. That’s a decent password that should fulfill the requirements of any policy you apply to it. “But that’s pretty complicated,” you say, “How am I supposed to remember all that?” One thing you can do is shorten the letter portion.
“KyeoTR976!*$” is still a pretty good password. It’s certainly better than “Muffie2016.”
Store abbreviated versions of your passwords in a text file for safekeeping.
The point of using a movie quote or song lyric is that it’s easy to remember. But if after all of this you still have problems pulling up your passwords from memory, there is one more direction you can take: You can store your passwords in a text file on your computer. This is typically a definite no-no, but if it’s either this or falling back to “child’s name plus year you were born,” at least make it hard for the bad guys to get you. Do this by abbreviating your passwords when you write them down or store them as text files.
Take our example password from above, remove the lowercase letters, and you get this:
Now you have a nice abbreviation of your lengthy password. You know what the full password is, but anyone finding this abbreviation would be missing pieces to the puzzle. Using the capitals as your “reminder letters” will help you keep those straight from the lowercase ones.
By switching up your capital letters, numbers, or characters, you could make variants on your main passwords and use them for other websites or accounts.
Here’s one possible variation…
…that you could then write down like this:
If you choose to go down this path, we advise you to only do this for your personal passwords. Even if they’re truncated, your company IT department will probably still take issue with you writing down or storing passwords on your computer, in any form.
Granted, this method doesn’t allow for the complexity and flexibility of a password manager tool, but it’s free, secure, and pretty easy. Most importantly, it’s a convenient exit ramp off of the weak password highway, and onto the road of better account security. It might even make passwords fun. Just remember to KYeoTRyhUtw!