I ran out of pets.
For my passwords. I ran out of pet names. I always relied on my childhood dog’s name.
Back in the day, passwords were simple. One word. No caps. No numbers. No punctuation.
But at some point, rover turned into RoVeR29402@?!.
Then I forget that mess and have to reset it to something totally different — something I haven’t used in like three years.
So I do. Then I forget it and reset again. It’s a vicious cycle.
And I’m not alone.
Nearly 40% of Internet Users are Considered “Password Challenged”
Pew Research Center recently released a report that found 39% of adults struggle to keep track of their passwords. Pew considers us “password challenged.”
At the same time, of those who can’t keep track of passwords, 41% are worried about their online security. And for a good reason: Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults have been entangled in some sort of data theft or fraud, all according to Pew.
“Passwords are critical because they are still the primary method of authentication used by many people to access a variety of online accounts,” says Steve Weisman, a professor at Bentley University and author of the fraud and identity theft blog Scamicide.
These online accounts store information about your bank accounts, credit card numbers — even social security numbers. If hackers get their dirty cyber hands on this info, you’re liable for unauthorized charges and even vulnerable to identity theft.
4 Strategies to Creating — and Remembering — Strong Passwords
“Password” or “123456” is not a strong password, in case you were wondering.
“Hackers use programs that can guess millions of passwords,” Weisman says. “If you use any word as a password, it is easy for a knowledgeable hacker to guess it using these software programs.”
Therefore, generate something strong — and save it. (Yeah, I’m totally preaching to the choir right now.)
1. Start with a strong foundation.
Today, many accounts don’t let you create passwords that are deemed weak.
A strong password, Weisman explains, has both capital and lowercase letters, as well as symbols. And they’re not just one singular word.
2. Don’t overthink it.
So you shouldn’t rely on one word. Now what?
Weisman says to start by writing a sentence. He uses the example, “I don’t like passwords.” You can create a strong, memorable password with that sentence.
Here are some suggestions from Weisman:
IDon’tLikePasswords. This phrase has both capital and lowercase letters. There are also two symbols — an apostrophe and a period.
IDon’tLikePasswords!!! is even stronger, he says, with the three exclamation points.
And, wow, I can remember that. So rather than rover, perhaps consider MyDog’sNameIsRover!!!
3. Create a different password for each of your accounts.
Although it might be easier to remember one password for your million online accounts, you really need to use a different one for each.
“If your password security is compromised at one place that you go online, all of your accounts would be threatened if you use the same password,” Weisman says.
However, you don’t need 1 million pets to make this happen. Weisman offers a simpler solution.
“Adapt that base password for each of your online accounts so, for instance, your Amazon password could be, IDon’tLikePasswords!!!Ama,” he says.
Then, for Netflix, use something like IDon’tLikePasswords!!!Net.
4. Consider how you’re saving your passwords.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Weisman’s motto is, “Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”
You can’t even trust services that store your passwords. He says they can be helpful, sure, but he still has concerns about them being hacked.
And don’t save them to your browser. If your phone or computer is hacked, the hacker has easy access to all of that info.
Weisman says it’s not a bad idea to just write down your passwords and store them in a secure, safe place — like a safe. They’ll be available to you at any time, but also available to your loved ones if you, frankly, fall ill or die.
Writer’s note: Please don’t use the passwords I’ve used as an example. I think you know that, but I really can’t afford to be liable for anything that happens to you or your online accounts.
Your Turn: Share your favorite strategy to creating a strong password!
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. When she finally adopts a cat, she plans to give it a password-worthy name.