How to Create a “Strong” Password

Lately, many of us have noticed prompts for creating “strong” passwords. As if passwords have muscles. Some of us are even required to change our passwords as frequently as every month!

How’s a busy, cluttered mind supposed to keep it all straight?!?

Easy! Turn your password into a sentence.

This neat little idea is something I learned from my husband, which he learned from his previous job, where he was required to change his password every 30 days…and oh yeah, it had to be “strong.”

First, why would a password need to be strong, anyway? It’s not like they have little password muscles that they flex at their monthly password meetings to see who is the strongest. No, frustrating as it may be, it’s actually to protect your security. There are some pretty advanced computers out there that can randomly string together characters to try to hack into your account (email, banking, cloud drive, etc.). If your password ONLY uses lower-case letters, and it is six letters long, there are approximately 300 million possible combinations of letters. A password-cracking computer could try all 300 million of those combinations in less than one second. Boom. Hacked.

*Math geek warning* So let’s say you add capitals to the mix, you’re now up to 52 possible characters, and let’s say you go up to an eight-character password. That increases your number of possible password combinations to 53 trillion. That password-cracking computer would now take about eight hours to crack your code. Still…boom. hacked.

But adding numbers and special characters to the mix? And increasing the length of your password to 10 characters? Now you’re on to something. It would take a super computer…get this…TEN YEARS to randomly guess your password. (Assuming it doesn’t randomly guess it on the first try! Hah!) Go up to 12 digits and that super computer would have to stick around for 7 MILLION YEARS to randomly guess your password. Starting to see the light?

But yes, it’s frustrating to create a password that’s long and complex. And it’s difficult to remember it. You’re just going to end up writing it down on paper, which makes it that much less secure. So here’s how you remember it: Make it a sentence.

For example: the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” could be turned into this password: “Tqbfj0tld!” Each character in the password stands for a word from the sentence. The first letter is capitalized, adding to your security, and the sentence ends with an exclamation point, bringing in those special characters IT guys love to hold over your head on password-change days.

Here are some more examples of strong passwords based on sentences. *PLEASE DO NOT use any of these as your actual password. You will anger the password gods.

Ig8ho$en:) = “I get eight hours of sleep every night (smiley face)” — The dollar sign is used to represent the word starting with “S” in the sentence. The smiley face is the self-satisfaction you should feel if you are actually getting eight hours every night.

M1cbi0J1* = “My first child’s birthday is on January 1st (asterisk)”–Family names and dates are great, as long as you don’t make them too obvious (“Mike6/6/09” would be too obvious and the supercomputers would figure me out right away). If you can’t think of a way to include a special character, add an asterisk to the end of your password.

Iw!wak0C = “I wish I were a knight of Camelot”–An exclamation point is substituted for the letter “I” and a zero is substituted for the letter “O”. Use special characters and numbers to stand for words in your sentence.

Now it’s your turn. Take some time to think of 8-12-word sentences, then reflect on how you could use letters, numbers, and special characters to represent those words in a password. Write down your ideas, and by all means, share them with your partner! I can’t imagine the look on my spouse’s face if he were to read all of these crazy passwords I’ve invented…Hah! (By the way, writing down a password is still way more secure than having a weak password. You’re 1,000,000,000x less likely to get hacked from someone breaking into your home or office and randomly finding your password post-it than you are from a supercomputer running your numbers [statistic totally made up, but it sounds legit, right?].)

Thanks for reading! I hope your new strong passwords give the supercomputers the run-around. If you’ve found this helpful, please share! ❤

Sources/For more reading:

https://www.password-depot.com/know-how/brute-force-attacks.htm

http://www.cs.scranton.edu/~cil102/software_speed.html

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