In a world where passwords are the currency for everything we do (from streaming services to financial transactions), it seems strange that many people don’t take care to create strong passwords. A bad password can be the stuff of nightmares. Imagine yourself standing within the walls of a digital fortress.
Outside, you hear the sounds of attackers, hackers, and cyber criminals all trying to break down the doors. The fortress is your digital data. Luckily, you have a powerful, iron shield at your disposal: a strong password. With a strong password in place, you can stay much safer online. Today, we’re providing you with five tips to ensure your passwords are tough to crack. Let’s get started below:
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Take Advantage of Multi-factor Authentication
If there’s one extremely effective way to stay safe online, it’s using some form of multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication, or MFA, adds more protection and security to your passwords by requiring additional verification steps. Although this might seem annoying on the surface—it can be a hassle sometimes to use another app or answer security questions—it can be quite effective for preventing password breaches.
Moreover, it makes it harder for somebody to get into your account even if they know your password or it gets cracked. It also ensures that if your password is compromised, you’ll be alerted quickly in the event somebody tries to bring your account. You can use MFA authentication a number of ways, including through special apps, through security questions, using SMS or a phone call, via email, and more.
Use Complex Characters
Using multi-factor authentication is great, but it doesn’t do you any good if your password isn’t already secure and complex enough to prevent it from being compromised. Sure, it seems obvious, but using complex characters in your passwords keeps them better protected. One of the reasons behind this is that hackers have programs and automated tools (and lately, AI) that can easily guess passwords composed of numbers or letters. Special characters throw a wrench into the mix, making it more difficult to guess a password.
The longer and more complex a password, the more difficult it is to guess or unveil. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but it does make it more of a challenge for hackers. So be sure to add a few special characters or have your password manager suggest a longer password that includes them. And if it isn’t already obvious by now, don’t use your pet/kid/partner’s name as a password—unless you want it to be hacked.
Don’t Use Personal Information
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t use personal information in your passwords. But that doesn’t stop people from doing so! Sure, using a birthday or numbers that mean something to you can make passwords easier to remember. But in the immortal words of Admiral Akbar, it’s a trap! Avoid using your birthdate, address, phone number, or any other personal details that could be easily associated with you.
Cybercriminals often exploit personal information to crack passwords, so keep it impersonal and unpredictable. Plus, personal information makes it easy for everybody who knows anything about you—or can find information about you by scouring the internet—to figure out what your passwords are. The best thing to do is avoid using personal information and keep your passwords clear of any possible identifiable features.
Make It 14 to 16 Characters Long
Do you know what the optimal length for a password is? It’s about 14 to 16 characters. Longer passwords are more secure. It’s more difficult to crack a password that has a lengthy sequence of letters, numbers, and special characters.
The more characters you add to the password decreases the probability that it can be guessed. Of course, if you can’t remember your password, then you might want to use a password manager. But ultimately, creating a long, complex password with a mix of letters, numbers and special characters is the best way to keep yourself safe. Passphrases are also becoming more popular to reinforce password security nowadays.
Use a Password Manager and Security Software
Password managers are available in a number of different configurations—and from plenty of different vendors. Finding one can seem a bit daunting at first, especially if you don’t know what to look for. The best password managers store and encrypt your passwords, use a master password to access your password bank, and have multi factor authentication built-in right into them.
They’re not entirely full proof, but they do offer plenty of protection and the ability to remember multiple passwords for several different sites. Many modern internet security software suites offer password managers as part of their overall service package, so obtaining a password manager isn’t just a good idea—it’s incredibly practical and easy to do.
I’m a writer, artist, and designer working in the gaming and tech industries. I have held staff and freelance positions at large publications including Digital Trends, Lifehacker, Popular Science Magazine, Electronic Gaming Monthly, IGN, The Xplore Tech, and others, primarily covering gaming criticism, A/V and mobile tech reviews, and data security advocacy.