A weak password is an open door to cyber criminals and allow attackers to gain access to your private information, steal your data, access your bank details and even commit identity theft. Learn how to create strong passwords with these expert tips.
Take a step back and think, how many passwords do you use on a day to day basis? Our guess is that it's probably more than you might think, for example:
- Accessing your computer
- Email account(s)
- Social networks
- Online banking
- Accessing documents
- Paying bills online
…the list goes on.
There is a very easy and effective way to ensure that only you have access to your data: creating a unique, secure, and robust password. And, where possible, use two-factor authentication - when a code is sent to your phone via SMS which has to be entered by you before you’re granted access.
Many people do use a strong password, but they make the simple mistake of using this same password for all of their online accounts. So, inevitably, once a hacker guesses one, they have access to all of your accounts associated with that password...
To be truly secure, you should use a different password each time you create an account.
Five tips to creating a strong and secure password
1. Mix it up
Include a mix of numbers, symbols, upper and lower-case letters to make your password unique and harder to guess.
2. Size does matter
The longer your password, the better. Aim to have 12 characters as a minimum.
3. Don’t be obvious, avoid common phrases
Common phrases such as ‘I love you’ should be avoided. While you are avoiding such phrases, also steer clear from personal identifies like family names, birthdays, and commonplaces of interest. Attackers can easily research you, for example on social media sites like Facebook, to find out more about you and try to guess your password.
4. Use random phrases
Open your favorite book at random, flick through the page you land on and select a phrase. Or think of three or four random words, such as, “elephant and monkey in a tree”, combine them; “elephantandmonkeyinatree”.
Then make it a little more complex with uppercase and numbers if you want to go the extra mile, for example, “Elephantandmon3ey!natree”. Although it can seem tedious to remember a complex password, it's a much more appealing option than to risk getting hacked.
5. Use a password manager
Using a different password for multiple accounts also means remembering a lot of complex passwords.
Use a password manager to store all your passwords in one place. This way, you will only need to create one memorable, strong, master password.
Take a look at the following password managers to find a good fit for you:
How often should I change my password?
The NCSC  advice is to keep your password for longer - as long as it’s secure. This is because it’s difficult to create a good password and then remember it. The only time you’ll need to change your password is if it is compromised. However, we heartily recommend changing it every six months. Some systems may force you to change your password more often, in which case you’ll have to think of a good, strong password.