How-to Geek has a great article reviewing traditional password advice, and providing steps to create a strong (and memorable) password. We’re sharing it below in order to keep these solutions fresh and accessible for our customers, but the original article can be found on How-to Geek’s post here.
The Traditional Password Advice:
According to the traditional advice — which is still good — a strong password is:
- Has 12 Characters, Minimum: You need to choose a password that’s long enough. There’s no minimum password length everyone agrees on, but you should generally go for passwords that are a minimum of 12 to 14 characters in length. A longer password would be even better.
- Includes Numbers, Symbols, Capital Letters, and Lower-Case Letters: Use a mix of different types of characters to make the password harder to crack.
- Isn’t a Dictionary Word or Combination of Dictionary Words: Stay away from obvious dictionary words and combinations of dictionary words. Any word on its own is bad. Any combination of a few words, especially if they’re obvious, is also bad. For example, “house” is a terrible password. “Red house” is also very bad.
- Doesn’t Rely on Obvious Substitutions: Don’t use common substitutions, either — for example, “H0use” isn’t strong just because you’ve replaced an o with a 0. That’s just obvious.
Try to mix it up — for example, “BigHouse$123” fits many of the requirements here. It’s 12 characters and includes upper-case letters, lower-case letters, a symbol, and some numbers. But it’s fairly obvious — it’s a dictionary phrase where each word is capitalized properly. There’s only a single symbol, all the numbers are at the end, and they’re in an easy order to guess.
A Trick For Creating Memorable Passwords
With the tips above, it’s pretty easy to come up with a password. Just bash your fingers against your keyboard and you can come up with a strong password like 3o(t&gSp&3hZ4#t9. That’s a pretty good one — it’s 16 characters, includes a mix of many different types of characters, and is hard to guess because it’s a series of random characters.
The only problem here is memorizing this password. Assuming you don’t have a photographic memory, you’d have to spend time drilling these characters into your brain. There are random password generators that can come up with this type of password for you — they’re generally most useful as part of a password manager that will also remember them for you.
You’ll need to think about how to come up with a memorable password. You don’t want to use something obvious with dictionary characters, so consider using some sort of trick to memorize it.
For example, maybe you can find it easy to remember a sentence like “The first house I ever lived in was 613 Fake Street. Rent was $400 per month.” You can then turn that into a password by using the first characters of each word, so your password would become TfhIeliw613FS.Rw$4pm.This is a strong password at 21 characters. Sure, a true random password might include a few more numbers and symbols and upper-case letters scrambled around, but it’s not bad at all. You just need to remember two simple sentences, so it’s easy to remember.
The Passphrase / Diceware Method
The traditional advice isn’t the only good advice for coming up with a password. XKCD did a great comic about this many years ago that’s still widely linked to today. Throwing all the usual advice out, the comic advises choosing four random words and stringing them together to create a passphrase — a password that involves multiple words. The randomness of the word choice and length of the passphrase makes it strong.
The most important thing to remember here is that the words need to be random. For example, “cat in the hat” would be a terrible combination because it’s such a common phrase and the word makes sense together. “my beautiful red house” would also be bad because the words make grammatical and logical sense together. But, something like “correct horse battery staple” or “seashell glaring molasses invisible” is random. The words don’t make sense together and aren’t in grammatically correct order, which is good. It should also be much easier to remember than a traditional random password.