How To Make a Secure Password You Can Remember

Posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Many people use lame passwords because hard ones can be difficult to remember. But that is dangerous. We have helped many people who have had an account hacked due to weak passwords. Does your password make the List of most common passwords?

What Makes a Password Secure

There are two elements of a secure password:

  1. Length. The longer the password, the more difficult it is for humans OR programs to guess or brute-force your password. Make sure your password is AT LEAST 8 characters long
  2. Complexity. Complexity simply means having more characters to choose from. If you use a combination of lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, and symbols (such as #, @, $, punctionation, etc), then your password is much more secure than one that is all lower-case letters.

A Hard Password Doesn’t Mean Hard To Remember

Building a secure (or “hard”) password that is ALSO easy to remember is possible. Just use these “tricks” to build your password so that you can remember it:

  1. Build a pretend word that is meaningful to you.

    EXAMPLE:
    If your name is Susan, and your husbands name is Thomas, and your Son’s name is Brandon, then build a short word that is a “mashup” of the first three letters of your name and their names, like so:
    susthobra

    • Why it works: It adds complexity to the password.
    • Why it’s easy to remember:: If you use it naturally like the example, it uses information you already know.
  2. Use uppercase and lowercase letters. Using #1 as an example, it’s simple (and would make sense) to make it:

    EXAMPLE:
    SusThoBra

    • Why it works: It adds complexity to the password.
    • Why it’s easy to remember:: If you use it naturally like the example, it just makes sense.
  3. “Haystack” your password by putting several letters or characters before and after the password.

    EXAMPLES:
    ****susan**** is MUCH better than susan for a password
    ((((susan))))
    !!!!susan!!!!
    …. you get the idea

    • Why it works: Length is your friend when it comes to secure passwords, and haystacking makes adding length SIMPLE. (This is a technique developed by Steve Gibson of GRC)
    • Why it’s easy to remember:: Rather than having to remember a long string of characters, you just remember that you add four # symbols before and after the password.
  4. Combine some things you already know by heart.

    EXAMPLES:
    if your ATM pin number is 7799, then make your password susan7799 – better yet, !!!!susan7799!!!!
    If your husbands birthday is October 21, you could use something like susan1021 – or better yet, ####susan1021####

    • Why it Works: It adds length AND complexity.
    • Why its easy to remember: It’s something you already know by heart.
  5. Use a “replacement” technique. The number 4 LOOKS like an A, so you could replace the A in susan with 4, the letter S with a 5, an L with an exclamation (or number 1), etc.

    EXAMPLES:
    replacing an A with a 4: sus4n
    Replacing an S with a 5: 5u54n
    …etc (1 for L, or an $ for S, or an ! for i, etc)

    • Why it Works: It adds complexity.
    • Why its easy to remember: It’s something you can remember easily if you develop your own system, and use the visual similarities as reminders.
  6. Use a combination of these techniques to get a REALLY EXCELLENT password, that means something to you, but nobody else could possibly guess:

    EXAMPLE:
    using EVERY ONE of the techniques above (and using the Susan/Thomas/Brandon and pin examples)
    ####5u5ThoBr47799####

    Notice how that looks like gibberish to you? BUT, if YOUR name were Susan, your husband was Thomas, and your son was Brandon, and your PIN was 7799 – this would actually be meaningful to you, VERY secure, and easy to remember!

Best Tip Ever

Using a different password for each site is very important (don’t want someone who get’s your Facebook password to have access to your Bank Account!). What’s the best way to manage and track them? The ONLY password manager I recommend: LastPass. It’s secure (see this review on Security Now), easy to use, and FREE.

A word of Encouragement

I know this seems complicated. I do. Even if you just only use TWO of these techniques, your password will be much, much stronger than most. AND, I promise that you can use all 5 techniques – just go through each step with words/names that are MEANINGFUL to you, and add on a number that is MEANINGFUL to you, I promise it does not end up complicated – it ends up to be a GREAT password that you can remember! Always use at least 2 of these techniques – you’ll be glad you did!

One Response to How To Make a Secure Password You Can Remember

  1. Alana Bergh says:

    Good article, and I’ll use it.

    In #6 you have a typo: sone instead of son. Also, it should read “if your name were Susan.

    Thanks!

    A Fan

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Alana Bergh:  “Good article, and I'll use it. In #6 you have a typo: sone instead of son. Also, it should read "if your name were Susan. Thanks! A Fan”June 12, 2013 | 5:21 am