How to Create Your Own Password
By Carol Finch
Your password is the last point of defense between you and criminals who'd like to access your personal data. Hackers use sophisticated password-cracking techniques -- so your aim should be to make things as difficult as you can for them. To do this, you need to understand what makes a password weak, as well as what makes it strong. You can use online generators or create your own password manually. If you make your own, it's worth testing how effective it is by running it through an online checker.
Avoid Weak Passwords
People often create weak passwords because they want to make them easy to remember. Unfortunately, this also makes them easy to hack. Avoid using any personal details, such as your date of birth or name. Don't be tempted to oversimplify with weak passwords, like "mypassword," or sequential letters or numbers on your keyboard, like "qwerty." It's also best not to use words that you can find in a dictionary. Don't think you can be sneaky and spell them backwards or abbreviate them, as this won’t fool a hacking program.
Make it Hard for Hackers
Sites often set rules on passwords, asking you to make them a certain length and to use a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, punctuation and symbols. They do this for a reason -- longer, nonsensical and jumbled passwords are much more secure. Hacking programs often work through combinations to find passwords. According to Google, a password with eight characters that mixes numbers, symbols and cases has 30,000 more potential combinations compared to an eight-character password that uses only lower case letters. This simply makes it harder to hack.
Use Online Password Generators
Free online password generators create passwords for you. Typically, these allow you to choose the password’s length and the type of characters it contains. Some come with extra features. For example, Symantec's Password Generator allows you to create multiple passwords simultaneously. If you use PassCreator.com, you can ask for a word that you can pronounce or build a password around a memorable word. The secure password generator at PasswordsGenerator.net can exclude characters and gives you a sentence for each password to help you remember it.
Check the Strength of Your Password
If you create your own password, you can use free online tools to check its strength. Microsoft's online checker grades the password from "weak" to "best" as you enter it. Kaspersky's secure check warns you if your password needs improvement and estimates the time it would take for the password to be "bruteforced," or hacked. The Password Meter gives your password a percentage strength score and breaks it down into components, so you can identify areas for improvement.
Password Management Tips
Good password management doesn't stop when you create a strong password. It's important to change your passwords regularly -- Microsoft recommends doing this every three months. You should also use different passwords for every account -- if one gets hacked, this minimizes damage. You also need to keep a record of your passwords. Some people write them down in a notebook; others create a file on their computers. Alternatively, you can use a password manager program that stores your passwords securely and manages how you use them.
Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.