What’s in a Password?

The Internet is a fast, easy and convenient way to access all sorts of information. You can send and receive email from home or on the road, check your balances by logging into your bank’s web site and even shop online. All of these activities require you to create a password to help identify you and prevent unauthorized use of your accounts. It is critical for you to protect these accounts by choosing secure passwords.

To help you create stronger passwords and protect yourself from online theft, fraud, spam and viruses, you may view the following tips:

Never Use Your Login as Your Password

While it may be easy to remember, this is one of the first user name and password combinations that thieves will attempt in order to gain access to your account. Never use your entire login, a portion of your login, or anything related to your login as your password. For example, if your login is your first name, do not use your last name as your password.

Avoid Common or Obvious Passwords

A recent study by InTechnology.com and published in PC Magazine revealed the 10 Most Common Passwords. What was the number one most common password used today? Ironically, the most common password is “password.”

Avoid Words from the Dictionary

If you can find it in the dictionary, even if it’s not an English dictionary, it is not a good choice to use for a password. Hackers use programs that can quickly run through all of the words in the dictionary to find out what your password is. Also, stay away from words that are spelled backwards and profanity.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Just Letters or Just One Word

It is a good idea to have a mix of letters and numbers in your password, and if the system allows for it, a mix of upper and lower case and special characters (such as $, %, etc). Some programs and online systems allow the use of ‘pass phrases’ rather than the traditional password. The good thing about a pass phrase is that it can be easier to remember than a cryptic password. Make the pass phrase something that is meaningful only to you, which will make it easier to remember, and harder for someone else to guess.

Avoid Repeating and Sequential Characters

Creating your passwords with characters that are next to each other on the keyboard, such as ‘asdfjkl’ or ‘qwerty’ make your passwords very easy to guess. Avoid using other sequential patterns (i.e. 1234 or abcd) or repeated characters (i.e. 2222222 or aaaaaaaaa), as these are also very easy to guess.

Assign Each Account a Unique Password

Even if you create an extremely strong password, it is less secure if you use it for every account you access online. If a thief gains access to one of your accounts, then your other accounts using the same password are also compromised.

Store Your Passwords in a Safe Place

It is best to memorize all your passwords, but if you cannot remember every password, it is acceptable to write them down. Just be sure to store them in safe location, and do not provide all of the information that someone would need to access your account if found. For example, if your on-line banking password is b0bby$ue, you might write down “Money – b0bby$ue”, and not the name of your bank, the Web address to access the account, or your login name. Also, you should be wary of online services that offer to store your passwords. Even with safeguards in place, there is still some risk that an unauthorized person can enter the system illegally and access your passwords.

Using these tips to create and update your passwords will help reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your accounts. If you would like further information on creating strong passwords, please visit:

Password Checker – How Strong is Your Password?
Strong Passwords – How to Create and Use Them