What is a “strong" password?

It is sometimes hard for people to understand why a password such as a pet's name or their mother's maiden name isn’t a good password, or why passwords should be changed regularly. A strong password is a password that is difficult for others to determine by guessing or by using automated programs. There are websites and chat groups that are designed to assist those with criminal intent, including hackers. Hundreds of programs are available online that do nothing but crack passwords. For these reasons and many more it, is vital that care is taken when setting your password.

A 'strong' password:

Is a minimum of 8 characters

Is a combination of upper (ABC) and lower case letters (abc)

Includes numbers (123) and symbols(!@#)

Does not appear in a dictionary (in any language)

Passwords should be changed on a regular basis, and should change immediately if you suspect you have been compromised.

Your password is useless if you leave it on a sticky note attached to your computer monitor, or similar location. Criminals are familiar with all of the regular “hiding places" for passwords.

Never share you password, even with family members. A significant portion of fraudulent activity involves family members.

How can I create a strong password?

To create a strong password that is easy to remember but hard for someone else to guess or crack, try one of these techniques:

Abbreviate a phrase you'll remember. It could include numbers and symbols, or words that you can substitute with numbers or symbols. For example: I ride my bike 5 miles each Saturday could become the password Irmb5meS.

Use punctuation and numbers to combine the initials of people or objects from a familiar group, such as your favorite athletes, friends, movies, books, or historical figures. For example: Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Joan of Arc could become the password 1G, 2AL, 3JoA.

Drop all vowels from a favorite saying, and then add numbers or symbols. For example: Walk three dogs could become the password Wlk3Dgs.

Choose a Long Phrase and make substitutions – instead of "are" use "r", instead of "be" use "b", instead of "you" use "u", instead of "for" use 4 and so on. Pick the first letter of each word and make substitutions. "Ask not what your country can do for you" becomes AnWyCcd4U. "To be or not to be, that is the question" becomes 2bOn2BtItQ.

Check your password on your favorite search engine: If it is a strong password, no results should be found.

Password “traps" to avoid:

Do NOT use your username as the password.

Do NOT use "password" as your password.

Do NOT use your first name or last name as your password.

Do NOT use repeating or sequential numbers as password e.g. 1234567890, 22222222

Do NOT use dictionary words as passwords.

Do NOT write down the password on a post-it and put it on the monitor, keyboard or desk blotter.