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If you’re making an effort to use stronger, more complex passwords on your online accounts, good for you! But be careful—a longer password isn’t always a stronger one.
Here’s what I mean. “123456” is an excellent example of a weak password. Changing it to “12345678” certainly makes it longer, but not necessarily any stronger. And changing “password” to “password123” doesn’t increase its strength by much either.
Longer is better, but weak is weak—no matter a password’s length—particularly if a password incorporates a simple pattern. To improve your passwords, you need to add complexity. Here are four tips to help you do so:
Consider using a randomized series of characters that incorporate a mix of letters (both uppercase and lowercase), numbers and symbols. While long words such as your hometown or company name could be easy for others to decipher, a random variety of characters will leave them guessing.
An easy way to remember a password that is random and difficult to decode is to create a sentence and then list characters that represent the sentence. For example, you can use a sentence like, “My favorite place is the beach,” and break it down into something like, “mFp1StB!” As you’ll read here, LifeLock educational advisor Jean Chatzky takes a similar approach for her passwords.
Variety is the spice of, um, passwords
It’s important to use different passwords for each account you have for obvious reasons. If someone guesses one password, it’ll be easier for that person to hack into your other accounts with the same password.
When you update a password—for instance, following a data breach—it’s easy to fall back on ones you’ve already used. Don’t do it. Work to keep each password fresh and unique—like you!—and, of course, strong and complex.
Consider a password management app
Password management applications act like a digital wallet, storing your personal passwords, login details and other information in one place. All you need to remember is one strong password that allows you to log in to the password management app itself. There are many on the market, so search and see which one may work best for you. Learn more in this LifeLock UnLocked blog post from the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Learn more about a special offer from LifeLock for PTA members and families.
Cory Warren is the blog editor of LifeLock UnLocked.