You know you need to create a strong password for your online logins. Everybody does. The trouble is coming up with unique passwords for each account and then remembering them. Is that even possible? It is, I promise you. As proof, I’d like to share with you some password strategies to create a strong codes that you can easily remember.
Every day of our lives we’re required to input passwords. It’s estimated that the average internet user has 130 online logins.
That’s a lot of passwords to create and remember!
Here’s another troubling statistic: 81% of us reuse our passwords.
Most people don’t know that there are three different levels of password security, and most people barely pass the first level. The good news is that there are easy ways to fix this. I break this down into three primary strategies I call:
- “The Nursery Rhyme” password strategy
- The “Unique Modifier” password strategy
- Use a Password Manager strategy
Better yet, by taking the time to adopt one of these strategies (and it doesn’t take long), you’ll put yourself ahead of the majority of people online, significantly decreasing your chances of getting hacked.
Below I’m going to start by sharing with you the five characteristics of a secure password followed by the three strategies I listed above. Choose one to help you create a strong password that you can easily remember. Enjoy!
*Note: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you decide to use a service listed below. Rest assured, I have used every service I recommend and appreciate your support!
5 Characteristics of a Secure Password
Before I dive into my three simple password strategies, let me first help you define the characteristics of a “strong password“.
There are five specific qualities of a secure password that you should know. Take a moment to think about your bank password and see if how it stacks up against this list:
- Strong Passwords are Unique. Do you use this password anywhere else? Like it or not, each of your passwords for each of your logins need to be unique. Why? Let’s say that one of your passwords get stolen or swiped somehow. If you use the same password for all your logins, the thief could now easily access your email, investment account or other important accounts.
- Strong Passwords are Lengthy. The proof is in the math. A longer password is naturally harder to crack, although with brute force, technically anything is possible. Your password should be at least 12 characters long but I would suggest 20 or more characters for your most sensitive logins (bank, email, investments, etc.)
- Strong Passwords are Full of Character. Your password needs to have some variety. What does this mean, exactly? Simply put, your password should have all of the following: capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, characters, and even special symbols.
- Strong Passwords Don’t Make Sense. If I can look at your password and make sense of it, something is wrong. If it includes a word I can find in the dictionary or a phrase that I can quickly understand, it’s not a strong password.
- Strong Passwords aren’t Impossible to Remember. Writing down your passwords is a bad idea, unless you’re keeping this sheet of paper in a physical safe. Definitely don’t carry a password list around with you. The remaining options are to remember your passwords (it can be done!) or have a master password (which I’ll explain in a moment).
You think your password passes the test? Use this password strength checker to find out for sure.
How can you create strong passwords that you can recall without writing them down?
I’m excited to introduce three of my favorite password strategies to create a strong password that will produce virtually un-crackable security for your accounts.
Watch First! Password Strategies Explained
Before you skim through the three password strategies, take a few minutes to watch this video where I show you how to first establish your method for creating (and updating) your passwords.
Be sure to subscribe to the All Things Secured YouTube channel!
3 Strategies to Create a Strong Password
Now you should understand the basic characteristics of a strong password. You should also know from watching the video the steps you should be taking to create a strong password.
Now, for those of you who prefer to read, here is my list of 3 strategies to create a strong password that you can easily remember (that last part is important!).
“The Nursery Rhyme” Password Strategy
I call this strategy the “Nursery Rhyme Strategy”, but the truth is that any kind of memorable saying, Bible verse or phrase can work here.
The key is that whatever phrase you end up using, it’s a phrase that you know by heart.
The strategy works by taking the first (or last) letters from each word in the phrase you’ve chosen and stringing them together to create an unintelligible password.
It’s easier to show you than explain it, so I’m going to use Mary Had a Little Lamb as an example:
In the above example, notice that the final result is a password that is more than 20 characters long, includes various characters (symbols, capital letters, numbers) and makes no sense by itself.
Obviously, I wouldn’t suggest you use my example here. Instead, try to find a phrase or song that is unique to you. This could be:
- The first two lines of your favorite song.
- Your favorite quote.
- Your favorite Bible verse
- A memorable nursery rhyme.
Now if you’ve been reading carefully so far, you’ll notice that this password lacks one characteristic of a “strong password”:
It’s not a strong password if you reuse the same one on multiple accounts.
How can we make this password unique for each and every login that you have without you having to think up a new phrase or song for each one?
That’s where this next strategy comes into play…the unique modifiers.
Unique Modifiers Create Unique Passwords
Before you jump ahead, I want to clarify that “adding a unique modifier” does not mean simply adding a “1” or a “!” to the end of your regular password.
It’s far too easy for those passwords to be hacked. It’s also not memorable. How do you remember which account you used “1” and which one you used “8”?
There is a better way.
One of my favorite password strategies is to incorporate parts of the name of the service I’m using into the password.
For example, if I’m creating a password for my Facebook account, I want to add unique properties to my password that are related to Facebook.
This can be done in a number of different ways:
- Adding the first and last letters of the service to the beginning and end of the password: Continuing with the Facebook example, this means that I would begin my password with an “F” and then end it with a “k” (Facebook). If I had chosen Mary Had a Little Lamb as my phrase from Strategy #1, the end result of my unique password would look like this:
- Spell the service backward: Another way to do this would be to add the word “Facebook” at the end of the password, but to spell it backwards. In this case, it would look like: [email protected]$&etMwtlws2gkoobecaF
There are other creative ways to do this, but hopefully you get the idea.
By combining both strategies, you can create a strong password for each account login without having to write it down.
*Note: One thing you might be thinking is that it will take too long to type this out. That’s ok! Your fingers will start to learn the phrase and the fact that it takes a bit of time is a good indication that you’ve got a strong password.
Use a Password Manager to Create a Strong Password
Now, at this point you might be thinking to yourself “This is crazy. There’s no way I’m going to set aside the time to figure this out!“
If that’s you, don’t worry. I understand.
And thankfully, there is now technology that can assist you to create better passwords than you could ever create for yourself. These are called password managers.
Password managers are extremely useful because they create extremely long and complicated passwords for each login and then store them so you don’t have to remember it.
All you need is a “master password” to unlock it all.
Of course, a system like this is only as secure as the software you’re using, and I’ve detailed all the pros and cons of Dashlane in this review.
There’s a free version you can use but if you upgrade features, it’s ends up being a small amount of money to exchange for airtight security.
Additional features that often come with these types of password managers include:
- Security alerts (i.e. “someone is trying to hack into your account!”)
- Quick password changes;
- Password autofill;
- Sync your passwords across all your desktop and mobile devices;
If setting up your own secure password just seems too complicated, a password manager is the way to go.
Myth of the Un-crackable Password
As I wrap up this look at different password strategies, it’s important to point out that there is no such thing as an “un-crackable password”.
It’s a myth.
For this reason, I highly recommend you cover yourself with various layers of security. What does this mean? You can do things like:
- Use 2-factor authentication when available: Two-factor authentication is an excellent way to secure even the most secure passwords.
- Refuse to Reuse! Whatever you do, don’t reuse passwords on multiple account logins!
- Create Made-up Answers to Security Questions: What is your mother’s maiden name? Don’t be truthful…it’s waaaaaay too easy to find that info. Create fictitious answers to these regular security questions.
- Understand that nothing is “uncrackable”: Be vigilant. Hacks into services like Yahoo, Linkedin and others should be a clear warning that you don’t always control your own security.
Download the Security Checklist
As you might imagine, passwords are just the first step in securing your online accounts. I’ve already alluded to a few of the others here (i.e. two factor authentication), but there’s more you need to consider, such as:
- Are your social media profiles private?
- Is your home network vulnerable?
- How well are you personal devices secured?
Instead of trying to figure this all out on your own, I encourage you to download my online security checklist that will help you walk through the most important steps you can take today.