national
Skip to content Skip to Live Chat
Close Nav

Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

August 8, 2019

Student Success , Information Technology

How to create a strong password.

Hands typing on keyboard | password

Strong passwords for websites you use every day and better overall cyber security are in high demand. The volume and frequency of high-profile hacking attacks is constantly reminding us about how vulnerable we really are out in cyberspace. If you’ve ever wondered about the resourcefulness and persistence of mischievous (and sometimes downright malicious) hackers with too much free time on their hands, you don’t need to look very far for evidence.

More of us than we’d like to think use the same password for multiple devices and platforms, and this creates a huge cybersecurity threat in and of itself. As a result, strong password creation requirements are becoming more and more stringent and complex (“you MUST use at least 8 characters, at least one capital letter, at least one numeral, at least one special character, you CANNOT use the following special characters,” etc.).

There are several ways to protect your data; one of them is to hire qualified cybersecurity professionals. Or you can learn how to keep yourself safe online by learning how to manage your privacy more effectively, and that starts by learning how to create a strong password.

But let’s face it: there’s got to be a better way than trying to remember several distinct strings of random letters and symbols. This article will discuss why passwords need to be so complex, and how to generate good passwords that you’ll actually remember.

Data breaches we will never forget.

In recent years we’ve seen a surge in newsworthy cyberattacks.

Large corporate websites such as the Ashley Madison site (where good married folks go to “hook up” with other good married folks), as well as private users, continue to be vulnerable. The Ashley Madison site was breached in 2015, resulting in the compromise of the personal data of 37 million Ashley Madison users. This was subsequently followed by the incremental release of this information throughout the world on several different websites.

There may be little sympathy for the Ashley Madison crowd, but consider that other high-profile breaches have included companies that so many of us do business with every day such as Home Depot, eBay, Yahoo!, Uber, LinkedIn (professional networking), Equifax (credit monitoring services), and JP Morgan (investments).

Other data breach statistics include:

·         Per 2017 statistics, there are over 130 large-scale, targeted breaches in the United States annually, and this number’s current growth rate is at 27 percent every year. 

·         According to the cybersecurity experts at Cisco, nearly one-third of all organizations have suffered cyber attacks on their operational technology infrastructure.

·         Symantec reports that there are around 24,000 malicious mobile phone apps blocked every day. 

·         Between January 2005 and April 2018 there were over 8,800 documented cyber security breaches.

Hackers aren’t going away anytime soon, but they are getting more sophisticated with each passing year. In fact, hackers now have access to powerful tools formerly available only to law enforcement and the military, that can test millions of passwords per second.

Considering that 81 percent of security breaches are a result of weak and/or repetitively used passwords, one of the easiest ways you can protect yourself from a cyber attack is to learn how to create a strong password, and how to manage your login credentials for the sites you use.

On computer security icon | password

How to create a strong password.

Our data relies on people who understand the complexities of cyber security, but we can all help them out by creating strong passwords.

Your first step to generate a secure password is to come up with a non-English word (which makes it much more difficult for hackers to “guess”) that is difficult to crack, but easy for you to remember. You might try playing around with some phrases that are only familiar to you, such as “I was born in August 1991”. This can be represented with characters like IWbi81991! (add a punctuation symbol or two for another layer of complexity). You can also replace letters with numbers or symbols, to make August 1991 into 4UgU5t!99!.

Or maybe a favorite song lyric, “Our house, in the middle of the street” could be the characters  OHitMotS!?! for your home loan lender’s website login. These are examples of things you can easily remember, but that are virtually impossible to for hackers to crack.

One piece of advice you’ll hear repeatedly is to NEVER use familiar dates like birthdays or anniversaries. OK, agreed. But you can still use them in a way that makes your passwords even more strong.

Pick three significant dates to you: 7/15/2004, 12/2/90, 3/17/98, remove the dashes and replace them with characters like underscore symbols: “_” and then put a t afterward in between each date.

 Then run them all together: 7_t15_t2004_t12_t2_t1990_t3_t17_t1998! Voila! 38 characters long, and who would ever crack that?

Never use these passwords.

  • iloveyou
  • qwerty
  • sunshine
  • 1234567
  • 111111
  • 12345
  • 12345678
  • 123456789
  • password
  • 123456

Do not reuse passwords.

It can be tempting to reuse passwords, but every account should have a unique password if you care at all about the information that it contains. If one stolen password leads to a breach through one of your accounts, then you can be sure that’ll be the first password that hackers will try on your other accounts.

Keep your passwords safely written down in a notebook at home in a secure spot. There are also password manager tools for those who don’t want to remember a crazy number of different phrases or complicated characters.

Secure passwords are longer, not more complex.

Complexity is not as important as some password generators might have you believe. Instead of various symbols and capital letters, try just stringing together completely random words and phrases that have meaning to you, but probably don’t to anyone else.

Avoid patterns.

Never use names of pets, the street you grew up on, or any family names, birthdates, anniversaries, social security numbers, etc. These kinds of patterns don't make for secure options when it comes to passwords.

Computer code | hacking

Strong passwords create strong systems.

It is important to know how to make a good password, because otherwise, consequences can be severe. Hackers never infiltrate using brute force, but by targeting the individuals responsible for a system’s security, like a business owner. Sensitive data belonging to your family, possibly your customers (if you’re a business owner), and your own are at risk. Do what you can to protect it all.  

Everyone is on the hook for protecting their data, including business professionals, and everyday citizens.

Share this:

One online university. Four colleges. Flexible degrees.

Our focus on your success starts with our focus on four high-demand fields: K–12 teaching and education, nursing and healthcare, information technology, and business. Every degree program at WGU is tied to a high-growth, highly rewarding career path. Which college fits you?

Want to see all the degrees WGU has to offer? View all degrees