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Every time you have to create an account, the site developers advise you to “select a strong password” – but what exactly is a strong one? A strong password is really a “secure” password, which means it should be difficult for 3rd parties to guess. More importantly, however – a secure password has to be something YOU can remember.

So how do you find a secure password for yourself? Here are some guidelines on creating one:

Start with Length

A long password is a strong password. The general rule should be 12 to 14 characters long – but your particular server might limit you. Just make sure it’s as long as you can make it. Note, though, that length is just the starting point. Availing of the services of a security testing company like QAwerk helps find any other loopholes in the system that could be exploited by 3rd parties – giving you the chance to patch them up before things get bad. The word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” may be extremely long, but since it is already a well-known word, it’s not necessarily a strong one.

Add in Different Characters

Put different symbols or characters into the mix to make things interesting. These include numbers, question marks, exclamation points, the dollar symbol, and so on. Most people use their birthdays as their passwords, thinking that this is already a combination of different characters. For example, December251990 lets you use letters and numbers – but is it actually a strong one? Not because it’s personal information that’s very easy to guess by others.

However, you can try playing with that by using instead “DECemBer25!1990$” which is long, contains characters, and sufficiently randomized in capitalization to make guessing it harder. Even better – it’s something you can remember.

Note, though, that simply replacing characters in a word is not enough. You have to ADD characters in. For example, using the password “dollar$dollar$” is not good enough because you used a different character to represent a letter.

Abandon Logic

Of course, if you want to make things more interesting, it’s perfectly possible to abandon logic entirely when creating your password. A piece of common advice is to use a combination of random words that do not make logical sense when strung together. For example, “boyswillbeboys” may seem like a strong password, but it’s actually a common phrase that’s easy to decipher.

You add in characters, or you can string together random words like “foodcapabledancing” to improve the password’s strength. Some developers recommend using at least six different words to create a combination or a “passphrase.” The use of a combination of words means that you can still remember as opposed to using characters.

Play with Phrases

As mentioned, it’s not usually a good idea to use a series of words that make sense together. However, if you can make a typical phrase more complicated than usual, it could also work as a strong password. For example, “DaV!nC!CODE_D@nBROwn” would work beautifully as there are enough substitutions for difficulty. You can also try “Ever+HingINmodEra+ion” which could also be difficult to hack.

Do Not Reuse Passwords

Another golden rule is NOT to reuse the same password for multiple accounts. It makes sense to do this because you don’t want to memorize a different set of random characters for each account – especially if you’re holding multiple accounts.

However, if you must use the same password or passphrase, try to alter each one slightly so they’re not the same each time. A good method is to ensure that the email you use to retrieve passwords has the most complicated pass for all your accounts. Think of it as the primary lock for all your other online accounts.

Password Managers

When all else fails, try to use a password manager to keep track of all your passwords. Several out there can keep a secure repository for all your passwords and the accounts they’re attached to. Isn’t this dangerous? Well, it can be pretty nerve-wracking, which is why it’s best done only when you have no other option. You can always write down your password, but keep in mind that this also comes with its own risks.

Understand that creating a strong password is just the first step towards a secure account. It keeps a site safe and improves the sense of security for owners of the accounts.