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Tips for creating a strong password

Passwords provide the first line of defense against unauthorized access to your computer. The stronger your password, the more protected your computer will be from hackers and malicious software (malware).

You may have been told to make sure you have strong passwords for all accounts on your computer. But what makes a password strong (or weak)?

This is not as simple a question as we once thought. The man who originally came up with the rules on safe passwords - Bill Burr - has now said this advice is wrong. 14 years ago Bill was working for the US Government and advised that passwords containing capital letters, numbers and non-alphabetic symbols were more difficult to crack.

In some instances these passwords actually put businesses at risk because some staff had to write down the hard to remember character combinations, and yet, the passwords were no less vulnerable to the cyber-attacks where a computer cycles through possible character combinations.

Actually you don't want a password, you want a passphrase!

Today the experts recommend you use easy to remember passphrases. These are a combination of words.

To make sure you have a strong passphrase, don't chose common phrases - "To be or not to be, that is the question" or a line from your favourite song, book or movie will not be as secure as a random set of words.

So think about your world and use it to create a passphrase. Someone who's favourite movie is the The Lorax, who grew up in Castle Street as a child, hates coriander and who's brother's birthday is the 10th of May might choose the following passphrase: LoraxCastle10MayCoriander.

When creating a passphrase to use as your password remember:

  • Use different passwords for different systems
  • Don't share your passwords
  • Make sure you log-off after logging into a system or service
  • Use two-factor authentication, if available
  • Don't write down your passphrase if at all possible (consider using a password manager)
  • The longer your passphrase the more secure it is

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