I loathe and detest passwords, but they are an unavoidable, and yet very necessary evil…. I hate coming up with them: following all the rules and specifications and then often when you type them in,  the “computer says no” well,  more accurately it tells you that the two versions of the new spangly password that you spent ages coming up with don’t match! Having sweated over your new passwords it then gets even worse (scary music) just when you really need them, you can’t remember them! Face palm moment…

Having said all of this, passwords are unavoidable and vital to your online security:  it is important to have a strong password that other people (or computers) couldn’t guess. It’s also smart to use a different password for all of your important or sensitive accounts, otherwise if someone got hold of your password they could gain access to everything: your email, your bank account, PayPal…

Every so often a web site will get ‘compromised’ and hackers will gain a list containing millions of user names and passwords, possibly including yours. It’s a good idea to change your passwords regularly so that by the time someone tries to use that stolen password it’s no longer working.

A ‘strong’ password is one that has a combination of different types of characters:

  • UpPeR aNd LoWeR cAsE lEtTeRs
  • Numbers
  • Punctuation (anything on your keyboard such as !@£$%^&*.,<>?)
  • At least 8 characters, and preferably longer

On the right is a neat 52-second YouTube video from Google about creating strong passwords.

Don’t include personal information in your password. Anyone who knows me (even vaguely) knows that I love purple, so using that word in a password would make it weaker. Family names, pet names, your address, the name of the site you’re creating the password for, the word ‘password’, ‘qwerty’ and ‘abc123′ are all really common passwords that are all too easy to guess.

So how am I going to remember these fantastically  strong super amazing passwords?  Well, having spent all that time coming up with them don’t compromise your security by leaving them on post-it notes on your desk! You might be able to come up with a pattern or a system that helps you to remember which password goes with which site. Or you might want to invest in a secure password manager on your mobile phone such as AgileBits’ 1Password app on the iPhone or for Android.

Some sites such as Gmail now offer “2-Step Verification”, which is a relatively new technology meaning that for someone to access your account they will need your smartphone as well as your password. Here’s Google’s explanation. Be careful though as if you lose or wipe your phone you risk locking yourself out of your account!

Test Your Password

If you want to know how good your favourite password is, try typing it in the box below and see how far the bar fills! This bar uses the same software as the file storing site, Dropbox, and your password will never leave your browser – I don’t want to know!