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How to choose a strong password?

If you could choose the strength of your house key, would you pick?

something that looks like this or something that looks like this
simple-key complex-key

The answer is almost certainly the second one. It’s much more complicated, so it’s going to be much harder for someone to copy it.

If it’s obvious with house keys, then why do we avoid picking complicated passwords for online accounts? After all, the most used password on the internet is “password” – that’s not exactly Fort Knox.

The more complicated a password is, the harder it will be to crack. Something like: D£@R$F$R34r34tGR is the best type of password – it’s long, it contains many different, special characters, and it doesn’t have any recognisable words. It’s definitely much stronger than something like: password123.

However, the truth is that remembering a lot of complicated passwords is hard. It’s much easier to remember “password”, than “P@s5w0rD”, for example. This means that people will not bother with a strong password (bad idea), write them down (worse idea) or just forget their passwords completely (annoying).

If you have the memory for it, you should definitely use complicated passwords like the one above. But if – like most of us – you find it harder to remember complicated passwords, read on for a simple way to have secure passwords that you can easily remember.

A simple method for safe passwords

One of the best ways to create a safe password is to use the very simple “Code System”. A code system password comes in two easy to remember parts, which you then combine to form a strong, crack-proof password.

All you need to do is invent a unique, four-letter code, and come up with a rule that you apply the name of the website you’re logging in to. It may sound complicated here, but it’s actually really easy. Here’s how to do it:

Password = Passcode + Website Name

Making a passcode: Create a complicated unique (but short!) passcode. You can pick anything you want – I choose a coded version of my pet Rexi’s name: R£x1. Because it is short, and because you’ll be using it on every website, you’ll remember it easily.

Making a website name rule: Make a rule that uses part of the website’s name as the second half of your password. For example, your rule might be “use the first four letters of the website’s name”. So if you were logging in to Facebook, the first four letters would be: Face.

You can now combine these to form your Facebook password: R£x1Face.

Using the above rules, your password for Google accounts would be R£x1Goog. For Flickr? R£x1Flic. See the pattern?

This method is strong for three reasons:

  1. If your passcode contains special characters (£$&%), numbers and upper- and lowercase letters, you’ll greatly increase your security compared with a word found in the dictionary.
  2. It means you use a different password for different websites, so hackers won’t automatically be able to log-in to all your different accounts if they get access to one of your passwords
  3. It’s much easier to remember than a normal complicated password, so you won’t be tempted to write it down or save it somewhere on your computer (both bad ideas)

What do you think – will you be using the code system? Or do you have another password technique in mind?

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