1. Change your passwords regularly
The longer you use a password, the less secure it becomes. That's why security experts suggest that you change your passwords at least once a year to protect your accounts. Depending on your risk level, you may need to change them every 90 days. For example, if you use public computers a lot, you should update your passwords more frequently than if you only use a home computer.
2. Go for length
Your passwords should be at least eight to 10 characters in length. Aim for a password that is both complex and long. A six-character, lowercase password takes five minutes to break; one with nine characters takes two months. A six-character password with numbers and symbols takes less than nine days to break; one with nine characters takes nearly 20,000 years. You get the idea!
3. Don't follow the crowd
Every year security services provider SplashData releases the most common (and therefore the worst!) passwords in use. And every year "123456," "12345678" and "password" are at the top of the list. Don't use these passwords—and don't use common dictionary words or consecutive numbers when creating your password. Passwords with simple patterns, such as "1234" or "qwerty," or with obvious substitutions such as "H0u$e," are easy to guess.
4. Obey these password commandments
Don't use your Social Security number, phone number, birth date, first and last names or your user ID when creating a strong password. Don't use the same password on multiple sites, reuse passwords, or use variations of the same password. Ideally, each of your passwords should be unique. Avoid storing your passwords in unencrypted electronic files, like the notes app on your phone. Instead, write them down and store them in a safe place.
5. Make it memorable
A strong password should be based on something you can remember but that would be difficult for a hacker to guess. Stay away from well-known phrases, quotes or song lyrics. Start with a sentence such as "I live for boating!" and transform it to "ILv4Btng!" Or string a series of random words together to create a strong password like this: "wizardboWLingchicKeN."
Following these tips can help you create stronger passwords that are tough for hackers to break—and help protect your identity. For more advice on building a Fort-Knox-worthy password, check out this video about improving password security from Better Money Habits.
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