5 ways to make your passwords secure

Cyber security is something that we are all increasingly aware of, whether it’s when we’re updating Facebook, checking our emails, searching Google, ordering something off Amazon or moving money around via online banking. Secure passwords are the number one way to stop people hacking your account, help keep your personal information safe, as well as protect you from bigger threats such as identity fraud.

It’s important not to assume that your accounts are safe because you don’t have lots of money, or aren’t a member of a big company. Often hackers target accounts at random, and if you use the same password across a number of accounts one randomly targeted hack could cause you serious problems.

There’s a lot of conflicting advice on what makes a great password – and realistically, even if it is the most secure method, is a really long string of random letters, numbers and punctuation that you can never remember a good idea?

We’ve pulled together our top 5 tips for managing your passwords in a secure but alsopractical way! There might be some points that people disagree on – feel free to try and convince us in the comments.

1) Do use a long password

Tech Radar estimates that a six-letter password without any capitals can be cracked in less than a second. This is because a hacker with a reasonably fast computer can make about 100 billion guesses a second, so even if you chose six random lower case letters it would still be crackable in no time at all.

In comparison, an eleven-letter-password would take the same computer about 11 hours. This doesn’t make you totally un-hackable, but it means that your password is less susceptible to a casual break in.

To improve on that further (up to 500 years!) see point 5.

2) Don’t be too obvious

If your password is any of the top 100 most popular passwords, it’s obvious. Check it out here.

If your password is your birthday or uses your own name, it’s obvious.

In fact, if your password is a popular phrase, it’s still kind of obvious.

The best current recommendation is to use several randomly selected words, which you can remember. This is a good balance between something practical and something secure. Some people will recommend not using any words that you can find in a dictionary, but we think that makes it too challenging to actually ever remember them, especially if you follow tip number 3.

3) Do use different passwords

Nobody likes this rule – it’s inconvenient to think up new passwords and even harder to remember which password you used with which account. However, it is important.

Hackers can use your credentials from one site to access other accounts – there have been instances where big companies have been accused of having a ‘data breach’ and what has actually happened is that customers have used the same username and password on multiple sites, and one of those has been breached.

In order to keep your accounts protected you should use different passwords, especially for any accounts that contain payment details or personal information that could be used for identity fraud.

4) Don’t worry about changing it too often

Anyone who uses Microsoft Exchange is used to the frustration of being asked to change your password every 30 days or so (and not to reuse one one you’ve had in the past 3 months) however, if you create a secure password there is no reason to change it regularly unless there is a breach.

5) Do use capitals, numbers and punctuation

Returning to tip number 1 – if you have an eleven-letter lower case password it would take 11 hours to crack. However, if you have an eleven character password using capitals and punctuation, it could take up to 500 years.

These different kinds of character add a level of complexity which really improves your security. However, don’t think that you can use an obvious phrase and just add some numbers(e.g. pa55word) – this really isn’t sufficient on its own and ideally you would choose random numbers/characters, rather than making the obvious letter switches.

+1) Password Managers

A lot of people swear by password managers to keep all of their passwords organised, so they don’t have to worry about remembering them. They will even generate passwords for you that are very secure.

This can be a great solution but remember that even these can be hacked and will require you to remember a ‘master password’, which will need to be totally secure AND totally unforgettable.

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