Open Sesame: The Secret of Strong Online Passwords - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Living in the digital age has countless benefits.

Actually, living in the digital age, I could create an app to count and organize all the benefits that come with the digital age.

But I won’t, because one probably already exists.

Along with those digital benefits, also come some digital disadvantages. One of the big disadvantages is all of the online passwords we have to remember, or not remember as the case may be. What adds to the challenge of remembering all of these passwords is that, if done “correctly,” they have to be complicated enough to not be easily hacked. If that wasn’t enough, all of your passwords are supposed to be different.

I say “supposed” because more than likely, you have at least one password you use for multiple sites. I know I do (Do as I write, not as I do.). But I’m on the slow journey of converting all of my passwords to strong, unique and memorable passwords.

Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way.

Weak

There are a few basic rules that you hear time and time again. Chances are you already know them, but maybe send them to your technology-challenged friend or family member at their Hotmail account. Make sure not to use the following as your password:

  • Your own name
  • Your username
  • Your birthday
  • Your pet’s name
  • Your Social Security number

Medium

When creating accounts, different sites have different requirements for what they’ll allow for an acceptable password. Any given site won’t know your pets, but they will know if you use all lower case letters – which they may not allow. Not all sites’ password security protection is created equally, so make sure not to do the following:

  • Use only letters
  • Use only numbers
  • Make it shorter than eight characters
  • Use all UPPERCASE or lowercase letters
  • Use sequential characters (1234, ABCD, etc.)
  • Use repeating characters (1111, AAAA, etc.)

Strong

If you follow the above guidelines, you’ll be able to pass the minimum requirements for most sites, but if you want to make your password go above and beyond, do the following:

  • Create “words” that don’t exist
  • Put in random numbers, not just at the beginning or end of a string of letters
  • Mix between capital and lowercase letters throughout
  • Use any given letter or number only once
  • Use special characters such as ! or @

A Password to Remember

Memorizing something like “fJs3!X#5+1” may be doable for one site, but how are you supposed to remember dozens of strings of gibberish? Well, you have two options: create your own system or use a password manager.

Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of computer repair company Nerds On Call, has some advice:

I know what you’re thinking: It would be impossible to remember a unique username and password combination for the 1,234 websites with which you have “accounts.” Au contraire. Utilize a password management program like LastPass.

All you have to do is create one strong master password, and LastPass takes care of the rest. You’ll use that password to sign in to your LastPass account, and from there you’ll be prompted to save your login information for different websites. After that it will automatically create strong and unique passwords for every site that you visit. The service costs $12 per year, but considering all of the sensitive information it protects, it’s worth considering.

Or if you’re up to it, you can create your own password system that will allow you to create strong passwords that are easily remembered by you and only you.

What if you use something like Q2!5k&L9@1nHm? Think you can remember that? It’s pretty simple once you break it down.

Take two words. For this example let’s use “Quicken Loans.”

Take two letters from each word that you find easiest to remember and alternate between capital and lower case:

Qk Ln

Add in four numbers that are easily remembered, like part of an old phone number or your PIN number. Split them and place them between your two “words.”

Q25k L91n

Now add in three different special characters. Two between the two sets of numbers and another in the middle of the two “words.”

Q2!5k&L9@1n

That’s an 11-character password that’s pretty strong and is your new base password.

Now for each different site you can add on an additional couple of characters. So if you’re signing in to your friend’s Hotmail account, you would take the two easiest to remember characters from Hotmail, like H and M and add them to your base.

Q2!5k&L9@1nHm

There you have a complex password that’s fairly easy to remember. It will take a little time for muscle memory to set in, but before you know it, you’ll be able to speed type your password.

Share your preferred password manager or your own password system in the comment section below.

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