Passwords are the keys to access personal information stored in your computer. This means they are the one barrier between your data being safe and sound to having your entire system compromised. The strongest passwords are those that are the longest.
Most passwords should at least be 8 characters in length but those with 14 or more characters are the best. Combine letters, numbers and symbols culled from the entire keyboard. Your password will be much stronger if you choose from all symbols on the keyboard, including punctuation marks not on the upper row of the keyboard and even symbols unique to your own language. Substitute letters with similar looking numbers (for example, “A” with “4”) and also mix uppercase and lowercase letters. Throw some misspellings in there as well. The greater variety of characters in your password, the harder it is to guess. If you cannot create a password that contains symbols, you need to make it considerably longer to get the same degree of protection. An ideal password is one that combines both length and different characters. Finally, use words and phrases that are easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess.
The various don’ts to follow when making a strong password are:
- Avoid sequences or repeated characters. “12345678,” “222222,” “abcdefg,” or adjacent letters on your keyboard do not help make secure passwords.
- Avoid using only look-alike substitutions of numbers or symbols. Criminals and other malicious users who know enough to try and crack your password will not be fooled by common look-alike replacements, such as to replace an ‘i’ with a ‘1’ or an ‘a’ with ‘@’ as in “M1cr0$0ft” or “P@ssw0rd”. But these substitutions can be effective when combined with other measures, such as length, misspellings, or variations in case, to improve the strength of your password.
- Avoid your login name. Any part of your name, birthday, social security number, or similar information for your loved ones constitutes a bad password choice. This is one of the first things criminals will try.
- Avoid dictionary words in any language. Criminals use sophisticated tools that can rapidly guess passwords that are based on words in multiple dictionaries, including words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and substitutions. This includes all sorts of profanity and any word you would not say in front of your children.
- Use more than one password everywhere. If any one of the computers or online systems using this password is compromised, all of your other information protected by that password should be considered compromised as well. It is critical to use different passwords for different systems.
- Avoid using online storage. If malicious users find these passwords stored online or on a networked computer, they have access to all your information.
- Change your password every 30-60 days and avoid using any old password.
You can also generate any random password of your liking very easily through PC Tools Secure Password Generator at: