How To Create Strong, Memorable Passwords That Are Difficult To Crack

Hardly a week goes by without one organisation or another being hacked and user account details and password files being made public on the internet.Is there any hope that our passwords will be safe?

Actually there is some hope…but we all have to play our part and choose strong passwords !

Hopefully the organisations we have online accounts with will be doing their utmost to protect our personal information, and in particular our passwords. Even if they are, that’s not the end of the story as simple passwords can still be cracked quite easily by hackers. We need to do our bit by making sure we have strong passwords that will be much more difficult to crack.

5 tips for strong, memorable passwords

There are lots of ways to create strong but easy to remember passwords. Here are just a few ideas to show how easy it is.

1. Think of a word and a number

Word = Olympics

Number = 1066

All you need to do is mix these up a bit to come up with a good password.For example:

10 Olympics 66

Olym 10 pics 66

1 Ol 0 ym 6 pi 6 cs

Top Tip – Make sure you mix it up. The password Olympics1066 is not as good as the others.

2. Think of a Lyric, name and a number

Lyric= S he w as m ore l ike a b eauty q ueen f rom a m ovie s cene

Name = Michael Jackson

Number = 1983 (Song released in this year)

Choose the first letter from the phrase and mix the initials and number in. For example:

Swmlabqfams MJ1983

MJ Swmlabqfams 3891

M19 Swmlabqfams 83J

Top Tip – Once you decide on how you want to mix it up, stick with it. If the mixing it up part could confuse you then you could write down a memory jogger! – See how at the end?

3. It doesn’t have to be too long

Phrase= J ust l ike t hat

Name = Tommy Cooper

Number = 1921 (His birth year)

Jlt TC1921

You get the idea!

4. Write down a memory jogger

We all need help remembering things so why not write down something to help jog the memory. It will be very unlikely that someone will be able to decipher a decent memory jogger. You can write things down in such a way that they make perfect sense to you but are useless to someone else.

Lets take the Tommy Cooper example…

You could have ‘Tommy’ written down in your address book then you could follow this with a memory jogger, like so:

Tommy: Idp-pdI

Which in this case would stand for I nitial- d ate- p hrase- d ate- I nitial

Using this would give a password of:

T19jlt21C

Note – the phrase is now all in lower case here.

5. And finally…

Remember, you really need to change your passwords every so often as you never know if your password is in the wrong hands.

The biggest problem we all face is that we have so many online accounts that we forget what they are. Give yourself a fighting chance and have a list somewhere that you can add to for all the shopping sites, social sites and other organisations that you have used a password for. If you want to change a password, you will at least know where to look!

Good luck.


Article by Bert Curtin, Senior Information Assurance Consultant at Ascentor

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9 thoughts on “How To Create Strong, Memorable Passwords That Are Difficult To Crack

  1. Thanks Bert,

    That’s really useful. As you say, we have so many online accounts these days it’s almost impossible to remember it all.

    What do you think of online password tools such as Password Plus, RoboForm etc? Just wondering if they are something you’d recommend.

    Many thanks,

    Sonja

  2. Bert says:

    Sonja

    Password tools are extremely convenient and mean you don’t have to remember your online accounts and passwords – The tool does it for you. There are a number of password management software tools to choose from. Some are free and others you will have to pay for. See this link http://alturl.com/wihac to see some comparisons on what they can do for you.
    One thing to consider is that the tool is configured correctly and make sure you have backups in case of data loss for any reason.
    There is also still a single master password that you have to remember and this would need to be particularly strong as you are protecting everything else with it.
    There is always a balance to be struck when dealing with security. We have to balance convenience with risk in this case. We are all vulnerable to cyber attack on the Internet and so we all have to decide if we are comfortable with the risk that there is potential for a hacker to get hold of your passwords, encrypted or not, as they only need to get hold of your master password to have the crown jewels.
    I haven’t studied the products but those that support keeping encrypted passwords on a USB stick instead of your PC should at least reduce the risk of an attacker stealing your passwords as you only have the USB stick connected for a short time. This is obviously more of a problem on mobile devices that don’t have USB ports, so back to balancing the risk again!

  3. Thanks Bert. That’s exactly what I needed to know. Convenience vs. risk – that’s the balance that we all need. I am learning a lot from you guys. Much appreciated.

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