Creating a Secure Password You’ll Actually Remember
Laptop open showing login screen, secure password tips

It seems like everything needs a password these days. Your phone, your computer, your email, your banking apps, your Facebook page, even your front door can ask for a password. If you’re anything like me, keeping track of all those passwords is an absolute nightmare. 

I once spent an hour on hold with the cable company to find out the password I had been trying was right all along, just missing one capital letter. Every website asks for something different: three capital letters, two special characters, at least 50 characters, and don’t forget to include an algebra equation!

With the requirements getting more complex every day, how do you create a secure password? And once you do, how do you remember it? 

Why Are Secure Passwords Important?

A secure password is your first line of defense against people trying to steal your information online. We understand that strong passwords are important for online banking and credit information. 

Still, it’s equally essential for social media and other less personal websites. Hackers can use any platform you’re on to learn about you in an attempt to break into your accounts and steal your identity. Creating strong passwords on all of your accounts helps keep your most important information secure.

Building Secure Passwords

Creating a secure password doesn’t have to mean arranging random numbers and letters in impossible to remember patterns. Here are a few basic password creation do’s and don’ts  to remember when making a new password:

DO

  • Create a ‘passphrase’ – Rather than using a single word followed by special characters, a passphrase uses several words with those cursed special characters sprinkled throughout. For example – John3:16=4G (like the bible verse) or 2BorNot2B_ThatIsThe? (like the Hamlet quote). Passphrases are generally easy to remember because they stick to a theme. However, they are much harder to hack because they are longer and more varied than a password. 
  • Change Your Passwords – The rule of thumb used to be to change your passwords every 30 days. As it turns out, that makes passwords simpler and harder to remember. Instead, change your password based on your use of the account. 

You should definitely change your passwords at least once a year, but also if you’ve logged into an account from a public device or wifi, like a library computer or airport internet. You should also change your password after you’ve shared it with someone, like a past employee or kicking your ex off your Netflix. If you receive a notification of a potential data breach or hacking attempt, always change your password!

  • Two-Factor Authentication – No, this is not a password, but it is one of the best ways to keep your information safe. Two-factor authentication refers to a backup method of ensuring only you have access to your account. They may send you a text or an email, and in addition to entering your password, you also enter the one-time use code that they’ve sent you. So if they give you the option, do it!

  DON’T 

  • Don’t use the same password everywhere – It’s tempting to use the same password across all your account platforms. You remember it better, you know it fits the requirements, it takes the guesswork out of passwords. But this also takes the guesswork out of it for hackers. If they hack one password, they now have access to every account associated with your email. Don’t do it!
  • Don’t reuse your old passwords – Along the same lines as using the same passwords, reusing old passwords makes your accounts easier to hack. Let’s say you used the password Lucky#7 when you created your company email account in 2018. After months of cycling passwords, you come back to it in 2020. Surely that’s safe, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always obvious when your account has been hacked. Someone may have discovered your password back in the day and kept it on record for future use. 
  • Don’t use common passwords – We get it, password123 was a great idea in 1995, but those days have passed. Passwords that include the word ‘password’ are the easiest to guess, so don’t be tempted. Stay away from obvious details like your name, date of birth, or place where you live in the password. All of that can easily be found online.
cell phone screen showing bank login, secure password management

Keeping Track of Your Passwords

So how do you remember all of these complicated, unduplicated passwords? Don’t be tempted to write them down! Having a list of passwords, either digitally or on paper, leaves your passwords open to almost anyone. 

Having all your passwords in one place means that once someone finds that list, they can access all of your accounts in one convenient location. So just don’t! Also, don’t be tempted by password manager programs.There’s just no way to know for sure who has access to your information.

What can you do then? Instead of a typed-out list of passwords, use hints that only you would understand. You can use password themes. For example, g3t_that_$MONEY$ for your paychecks and ABT2_uz_AMZ! (About to use Amazon) for amazon, obviously.

Or you can keep a similar base for your passwords but customize them for the specific site, for example, i<3p@sswrds_$$ for banking apps or i<3p@sswrds_AMZ for amazon. This way, you aren’t using the same password everywhere, but you’ll be more likely to remember them. 

Creating a secure password may seem like a chore, but it’s the best way to protect your private information online. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and don’t fall into the common password traps.