The other day I went to a website I haven’t been to in a long time and tried to log in and access my account. I didn’t remember my username or password, so I tried to use the password recovery feature. As it turned out, I didn’t even remember the email address I signed up with. After four different attempts to recover my password, I called customer support and had them help me recover my account. I found out that I was really close to logging in on my first try, I was just typing in the wrong password. I was lucky they had a customer support team, because if they hadn’t, I might not have gotten access to that account. The whole situation could have been avoided if I had just chosen a better password. Here are a few things you can do to keep you from running into my same problem.

Don’t Use Common Words

If your password can be found in the dictionary, it’s unsecure. While common words can be the easiest to remember, they also leave you the most vulnerable. If you’re going to use a common word, make sure it’s not the only part of your password. The words ‘watery’ and ‘tomato’ wouldn’t make great passwords individually. Even combining them wouldn’t be the best. Adding a few numbers on the end can help make them a bit more secure.

Create a Password Longer than 8 Characters

Just because eight characters is the minimum requirement, it doesn’t mean your password should be that short. Passwords of eight characters can easily be hacked, regardless of characters, symbols, or numbers.

Combine Easy Words to Remember

While it’s not good to use common words, it’s ok to combine words and turn them into something new, but still easy to remember. You can also change words into slang words if they are easier to remember. For example, if I wanted to combine ‘watery’ and ‘tomato,’ I might change ‘tomato’ to ‘mater’ and combine the words to say ‘watermater.’ This word is certainly not in the dictionary, and is easy to remember.

Turn Letters into Numbers

Let’s keep using the ‘watermater’ example here. While this isn’t a word that’s in the dictionary, it’s still not ready to be a password. Now, let’s turn the vowels into numbers. Most often, O’s are replaced by the number 0, L’s and I’s can both be replaced by the number 1, E’s are replaced by the number 3, A’s are replaced by the number 4, and unfortunately, I haven’t seen a good replacement for the letter U. Using this method, our password ‘watermater,’ will then be changed to ‘w4t3rm4t3r.’

Capitalize the Beginning of Each Word

This is a pretty simple and straight forward step. However, it can make a world of difference. Most passwords are case sensitive. Using our example, we would change our password to ‘W4t3rM4t3r.’ As you can see, this is becoming much more secure, but is still memorable.
Type the Password a Few Times so it Feels Natural
Once you have decided on a password, type it several times. Make sure it feels natural, and you are able to type it quickly. If not, pick some new words and go through this process one more time.

Change Your Password Often

The more often you change your password, the more secure it is. We wrote about the importance of changing your password recently in a post about cloud security. It’s best to change the password to each service you use every 60-90 days.