Best passwords: Strong password ideas for greater safety

Coming up with the best password to keep yourself and your online activities safe and secure is something we all need to do. There’s no escaping it, especially if you’ve got cloud storage to keep secure, a laptop to protect or a smartphone that needs to remain untouched. However, deciding on the best password to use isn’t always easy. It’s even harder if you’re in need of multiple secure log-ins.

Which is something that tends to affect pretty much everybody in the connected world. Multiple online accounts, lots of devices and the need to use cloud services means that most of us now have a requirement for passwords, and lots of them to boot. Much has been written about how to come up with a strong password and, while it’s an issue that most of us are familiar with, it’s always worth taking some time to go back and revisit our secure log-in information.

Unlike a good wine, many passwords don’t mature with age either. In fact, a password you might have used say one, two or three years ago might now have reached its sell-by date. Passwords need to be constantly updated, mainly because cybercriminals are endlessly evolving their methods for compromising computer security. Here then, are some strong password ideas for greater safety online.

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Ditch a weak password

If you think any, or indeed all of your passwords are duds then don’t waste any time in changing them. One of the quickest and simplest ways of doing this is to get yourself armed with one of the best password managers. This is a software application that streamlines the logging-in process, which makes even more sense if of you have multiple accounts and a small mountain of passwords to handle.

The other bonus with a password manager is that it’ll soon let you know which of your passwords isn’t great. However, many of us already know which of our log-in details are less than impressive. Using pet names and other just as obvious characters to formulate a password is a bad habit that many of us tend to have. So, if you’ve got a bad feeling about some, or all of your passwords it’s definitely time to ditch them in favour of something rather better.

What is a weak password?

When it comes to identifying a weak password there are plenty of examples that will soon let you know if you’ve been using a poor choice of characters. Sequential letters or numbers for example, are an obvious faux pas, as is using less than eight characters.

Similarly, choosing something that might be easily guessed is another needless oversight. Hackers are well versed in picking through their arsenal of the most obvious password connotations, such as ‘123456’ and ‘password’ itself, before they move on to the less-easy-to-guess passwords.

Even if you think you’re being smart by picking something that’s not related to your own identity, such as a movie star’s name, or comic book hero, the hackers could still figure it out. They do this using a variety of methods, including brute-force attacks, which is a method that does just that.

Hackers call on their software to pick through a variable combination of letters and characters until they crack the password, with success rates that are worryingly high. If that fails, they’ll often utilize other methods to crack passwords such as keylogging, phishing, dictionary attacks and credential stuffing to get what they’re after.

Build a better password

So, with all of those cruddy passwords noted and ready to be ditched, the next thing is to make sure you’re going to replace them with something much more robust. While you’ll often see a minimum of eight characters as the suggested length for a password, it’s actually worth going for something longer if you can. In fact, doubling that number is a good idea while avoiding all of your usual inspirations is another core aspect of creating a better password. 

What that means is to ditch anything that pertains to yourself, such as your first name, last name and date of birth. Remember to mix up the character style too, so a combination of upper and lower case, along with numbers and symbols creates a much harder-to-crack and less organic blend for a password. Don’t use anything in sequence either, as in ‘123’ or similar. Jumbling up the order might make the password harder to remember, but it’s also going to make the thing harder to crack.

A perfect password?

While there’s not any one combination that might be seen as the perfect password, you can certainly get close if you choose yours carefully. If you do it right, you should also be able to produce a password combination that’ll be a little easier for you to remember. For example, if you think of a word, then condense it by removing specific letters in the order, replacing those with a combination of letters and special characters, you’re off to a good start.

Another tack that you can make your own is to produce a formula, which is unique to your own way of thinking. For example, a phrase can be customized so that you mix and match one letter from the alphabet with the one either before or after it. Similarly, replace the vowels in your phrase with others, which once you have it in your head is actually quite easy to memorize, but equally hard to crack. Throw in the odd space or two and you’ve got yourself a fairly impregnable password.

Managing passwords

Naturally, the more passwords you possess, the more work you’ll have to do in order to refresh your collection and ensure that you’re as secure as possible. That brings us back to the humble password manager, which is a chunk of software that can prove to earn its keep very quickly indeed. A password manager app allows you to generate strong passwords quickly and easily, and all of your log-ins are kept in a secure ‘vault’ within the app.

You might need to pay for the privilege of owning a reputable password manager, but it is money well spent. The software will even tell you if your proposed password is any good or not, which is mighty handy. With so many of us now using cloud storage, which often contains many or all of our files, having the perfect password is not so much a dream as a necessity.


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Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.