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Your account passwords are becoming just as important as your house keys. Despite this, many people don't treat password creation with the respect it rightfully deserves. In fact, so many people use "123456" to access their accounts that SplashData found it to be the worst password in both 2014 and 2015.
The only people that benefit from simple passwords are hackers, so it's important to solve the problem now before any of your data gets stolen. Thankfully, making a new password is easy if you know what to do.
"Making a new password is easy if you know what to do."
Begin by realizing what you're up against
The problem with simple passwords has to do with two different kinds of hacking styles. The first is called brute force, which is where the hacker uses a computer to guess multiple passwords in quick succession. This is why passwords like "123456" aren't secure in the slightest, as the computer will be able to brute force these almost instantly.
A good way to find out if your password is safe from such an attack is to check it out on howsecureismypassword.net. This site uses previously gained brute force knowledge to estimate how long it would take for a computer to guess your password. The results aren't 100 percent accurate, but they're good enough to tell you if some of your old passwords are still viable.
Another technique hackers like to use involves researching a target's online life, which has more to do with those security questions on your account than the actual password itself. A hacker may not be able to research your password, but they will be able to find out your first dog's name or the city you were born in.
This is the kind of information they can use to bypass your password altogether by simply clicking the "forgot my password" option that most sites have. The only way to fight this is to be vigilant about what you put online. If your dog's name is a well-known fact on Facebook, you probably shouldn't use it as a means of accessing your private accounts.
Passwords should be long and strong
Now that you know how hackers generally access your accounts, it's time to actually create your new passwords. It's worth noting here that you should be using a unique password for each account with private information. Using the same phrase for your bank account as you do for your Facebook profile is one of the easiest ways to get hacked. If one of your accounts is compromised, then all of them are at risk if you reuse passwords.
So what should a password look like? The general consensus within the security community is that passwords should contain uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers that don't correspond with something a hacker could easily find online, like your birth year. The word also needs to be long, usually more than six characters. On top of that, you should endeavor to avoid words found in the dictionary, as hackers often use guessing algorithms set up to check for these kinds of words.
A great way to create a solid password is to use the first letters of a longer phrase with random numbers at the end. Something like "I don't like to play soccer but I like to play football" could be transformed into "IdltpsbIltpf3978," with each of the "I's" being capitalized. That password is reasonably easy to remember if you're a football enthusiast, and it would take a hacker's computer approximately 38 billion years to guess.
That said, keeping all of your passwords in line can be difficult, especially if you have a large number of accounts. This is why security professionals often recommend that you use a password manager, which is where a company stores all of your passwords in one secure space for later use. These sites generally offer two-factor authentication, meaning you don't have to worry about a hacker gaining access to all of your precious passwords.
Your online security is just as important as the safety of your home, and you should treat it as such. Creating a complex password for each of your most important accounts allows you to keep your information out of the hands of hackers. For your own sake, take the time and create some new passwords today.