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How to create strong passwords you can remember

How many passwords do you have? For email, your computer, phone, wi-fi network, social networks, online banking, online shopping… not to mention your home router, videogame console, work stuff… it just goes on and on. That doesn’t even include being required to change some of them periodically. And to be fair, it’s a good idea not to use the same password in too many places, especially with the “high-priority” accounts like your email and banking. So many people end up writing them all down (which sort of defeats the purpose – even worse is keeping the list on your computer or phone!!), or resorting to a password manager app to try to keep track of them all.

Most experts will say that you really should create super-strong passwords which are many characters long (definitely more than 8 – the longer the better), including a mix of upper and lower case letters, symbols, numbers – all kinds of things. But the trick really is coming up with something that uses these techniques, yet isn’t such a complicated password that you have to write it down for yourself.

So how do you create strong passwords which are hard for others to guess, but easy for you to remember?  Here are some ideas:

  • Combine a normal word (a friend’s pet’s name, the name of the street you grew up on, or better yet, just a random word you’ll remember) with a short number (an old address, part of an old phone number, part of an important date, an old pin number which isn’t connected to anything current, part of a membership or license number – or a random sequence of 4-6 digits you memorize).
  • Try not to use words or numbers that would be easy for others to guess if they know something about you (or that they could find by reading your Facebook profile). Don’t use your own pet’s or kid’s names unless they’re part of a more complex pattern, no important dates or years in a complete pattern. A friend of mine uses the pin number from an old calling card (remember those?!)
  • Avoid sequential numbers (like 1234, which, according to a recent article in the Daily Mail, accounts for a shocking 11% of all 4-digit pin numbers!), repeating numbers (1111, 9999 or 0000 especially, since those are often default pins) or commonly used ones (in the immortal words of Bill & Ted, “69, dude!”).
  • Capitalize at least one letter of your word.
  • Replace a common character or two with a lookalike, preferably a symbol – e.g. replace an “L” with an exclamation mark (!) slash (/) or backslash (), “s” with a dollar sign ($), a “6” with an ampersand (&) or an “S”, or just chuck a symbol in there somewhere.  It’ll still be an easy word for you to remember but it’ll be a stronger password for someone else to guess.

Examples of good ones, or at least good starting points:

  • fluffy8415 (let’s say it’s your uncle’s pet’s name plus the last 4 digits of your childhood friend’s phone number)
  • Bozo6969

Examples of better ones based on similar ideas which hopefully means you’ll remember them:

  • F1uffY84!5 (capitalizing the first & last letters of your word, adding in some replacement symbols & numbers)
  • !6Bozo9S9? (building from the middle outwards – split the 69 around the word Bozo, replace the 2nd 6 with an S, and add symbols to frame the whole thing)

Need to change a password every month, or whenever you have a new roommate (experts recommend you do change them periodically in any case – every 2-3 months is probably a good rule of thumb)? How about:

  • F1uffY84!5
  • F1uffY84!6

or:

  • F1uffY%84!5
  • F1uffY&84!5

Get the idea? If you have any other tricks, please share them in the comments.