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Choosing a password

How to choose a secure password and keep it safe

They say that the two things you can’t avoid in life are death and tax, but let’s face it, we need to add passwords into the mix. In this day and age, we live online, and every single account we have is likely to make us create a password so we can protect our private information.

Many of us will want to keep things simple and try and stick to the same password you’ve been using for 10 years because remembering 50 different passwords for 50 different accounts is not an easy thing.

But doing that means that your password is not going to be secure and your whole online life could fall like dominos if someone figures out what it is. So, here’s how you choose a secure password and how you keep it safe.

How secure is my password?

If your password looks something along the lines of ‘qwerty’, ‘12345678’ or ‘password’, then we need to chat. Hackers, as in people who want to steal your information from you, and often your money, know the standard passwords. All you’re doing is making life easy for them.

There are online tools which will tell you how strong your password is, usually based on a traffic light system. An example of this is The Password Meter.

How to create a strong password?

No matter how boring it seems, make a point to update your passwords regularly. This includes the upper and lower case letters along with symbols and numbers.

Edward Snowden (who knows a thing about passwords and online security!) shared his advice on how you create a good and yet memorable password. He said:

“For somebody who has a very common eight-character password, it can literally take less than a second for a computer to go through possibilities and pull that password out.

“Forget about passwords and go with ‘passphrases’, or phrases that are long, unique, and thus easy to remember.

“Like ‘margaretthatcheris110%SEXY’.”

Why is it important to have a strong password?

More and more we’re doing important things online. We’re not just looking at pictures of dogs or seeing what our ex is up to on social media!

We’re creating banking accounts, we’re buying mortgages, have social media accounts with all our personal details in them. The only thing keeping people who want to steal your money from being able to is a good password. 

Bank details aren’t the only important details that can be stolen either. A hacker, just by knowing your email address for example, can make you incredibly vulnerable.

The reality is that your email account is linked to other things too, such as online banking. If a hacker obtains access to your email account, they could log into the bank’s website, click the ‘forgotten password’ link and then email a new password link to the email account the hacker now has access to.

How to choose a password you can remember?

The odds are you have more than one password to remember and unless you have some serious memory skills, you won’t be able to memorise them all. Using the same password for lots of different accounts is not a good solution but there are a few things you can do to make multiple safe passwords easier to remember, safely.

You should never, ever write your passwords down though. If someone sees it, it’s game over when it comes to security. That said, writing down clues/reminders etc that only you can decipher and will jog your memory is always a good call.

Some people create passwords they can remember easily by creating their own special code. For example, you could purposely misspell words which makes them more unique and extra hard for hackers to guess.

For example, instead of using the letter ‘i’ in words, why not change it to the symbol ‘!’ instead?

Another way to choose a password that you will remember is to always base it off one word. Let’s say the word you choose is ‘daffodil’.

What you could do, is add the first three letters of the letters of the website you’re on and then add it with the last two numbers of the year you were born. So if you were born in 1973 and the password is for your Facebook account, the password would be FacDaffodil73. If you were on Twitter it would be TwiDaffodil73 etc.

What are some examples of good - and bad - passwords?

When thinking up a password, there are a few things you need to include which will dramatically reduce the likelihood of a hacker cracking it, keeping all your personal information – and money – safe.

These include:

  • The passwords must be long and as complex as possible.
  • It should contain at least ten characters and combine symbols like commas and percent signs, as well as upper case and lower case letters and numbers.
  • Never write down your password as it makes it easier for the passwords to be stolen and used by someone else.
  • Never use the same password for two or more devices, as hackers who break into one machine will try and use the same password to take control of others.

Using all these tips a good password would look something like:

  • !loveChristmasTr33s
  • GameOfThronesIsBrilliant!999!
  • MoneyAdviceServiceBl@gIsTheB3st

Think up a phrase then think of easy ways to add extra bits to it to make the password more complicated.

Password security tips

We're hoping you've picked up enough tips within this article that you can create yourself a rock-solid password to keep your money and personal information safe. 

A quick recap:

  • Never give out your password to anyone.
  • Don’t use one password.
  • Use a passphrase (doesn’t have to involve Margaret Thatcher!).
  • Make the password at least 10 characters long.
  • Include numbers, capital letters and symbols.
  • Consider using a password manager.
  • Consider using multi-factor authentication ‘LINK’.
  • Don’t fall for phishing attacks ‘LINK’.
  • Make sure your devices are secure.
  • Use a password or fingerprints for your phone too.

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