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Securing the Right Password

"Choose a phrase you can easily remember... Take the first letter of each word of that phrase, and you have a strong password"
Most of us in North Carolina use dozens of websites that require a username and password. Trying to remember your username is hard enough, but trying to remember an assortment of passwords can seem virtually impossible. We tend to create very simple passwords in the hopes that they will be easy to recall. But such passwords totally defeat the purpose of having a password in the first place: security. Fortunately, it is possible to create a password that is both strong and easy to remember.

The Problem with Simple Passwords:

Too many of us are using simple, short passwords like "max." A password hacker using the most basic form of hacking, which makes 1,000 guesses per second, can break a password like "max" in just 18 seconds! Think throwing in a capital letter or two will make your password unbreakable? Hardly. Using a short password with one capital letter, such as Max, would only take 2.4 minutes to break. Of course, many websites won't even let you use passwords this short, and for good reason.

Here's an idea of how long it takes an average hacker to break some other passwords (with no punctuation):

abcde
3.4 hours
doctor
3.72 hours
brian
3.43 hours
1234567
3.09 hours

These passwords, though longer than "max," aren't much more secure.

Using (and Remembering) a Strong Password:

To create a truly strong password, you need to use a mixture of the following: lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and punctuation. Avoid using words that you can find in any dictionary. The idea is to create a new "word" of sorts.

Here's a good method for creating a strong password: Choose a phrase you can easily remember, such as, "My first house was on 15 E 3rd street." Take the first letter of each word of that phrase, and you have a strong password: "My first house is on 15 E 3rd street" or Mfhio15E3^s.

Assuming an average hacker would give it his best shot and make one thousand guesses per second, a password like Mfhio15E3^s would take 1.74 hundred billion centuries to break!

When picking a phrase to use, choose something that you'll easily remember, such as a child's birthday or a car. Here are a couple more examples:

"David was born on April 22, 1980" or DwboA22, 80
"My 87 Chevy truck is a 4x4" or M87Ctia4^4
"Mom's best meal for dinner is lasagna" or M'sbm4dil. (Note the use of 's in the password, as well as 4 instead of "f")

Password Do's and Don'ts:

  • Do use a mixture of letters, numbers, and characters. Mix in uppercase letters and use similar looking characters such as zero for the letter o, or 4 instead of "for."
  • Do use passwords that have more than six characters.
  • Do change your password on a regular basis.
  • Don't use common words/names easily found in the dictionary.
  • Don't write down your password and put it on a sticky note on your computer monitor.
  • Don't email your passwords to yourself.
  • Don't use easy-to-guess words or phrases like "password" or "let me in."

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