Passwords tend to be a pain point for many people. Virtually everything you access has password security tied to it. Want to buy a sweater with an online retailer? Enter your password. Ordering groceries to be delivered? Enter your password. Going to watch a movie online? Enter your password.

With so many passwords to remember, it is tempting to choose one simple password and use it for everything, but that can put your personal data at great risk. Data breaches are becoming so common that every few months it seems another large company reports a data security breach. If your e-mail account password is stolen and you use the same password for Online Banking, that puts you at much greater risk.

Common Methods of Password Hacking

Data breaches are only one way that fraudsters and identity thieves can get your password. Sometimes a brute force attack is used, where a hacker will try to guess your password, using programs that try hundreds or thousands of passwords until they find the right one. Or if your password is based on personal information, someone may be able to guess your password with a little research about you on social media or other publicly available resources.

So, what makes a password secure?

Ideally, the longer and more complex, the better. A combination of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and special characters is best. Avoid repeating characters, dictionary words, usernames, names, and simple passwords such as 123456.

While it sounds like a difficult feat, coming up with something complex, yet easy to remember, is actually not that hard. One way to develop a complex password is to start with a phrase you can easily remember so you never have to write it down. For example, you might use the phrase “The Sound of Music is my number one favorite movie of all time!”

Then use a letter, number, or special character to stand in for the first letter of each word in your phrase. Using our example phrase "The Sound of Music is my number one favorite movie of all time!" might give you a password that looks like this: T$oMim#1fm0At!

Keeping Your Password Safe

Once you have established a complex password, do not use it for everything. Make it unique to one site. Never write down your password. Change your password at least once every 90 days. 

Using a Password Generator

As an alternative to creating your own password, you could a use a password generator program. These programs will generate passwords that are long and complex enough for any password you need to create. Since they are generated by a computer, they are very secure, but they can also be more difficult to remember than a password you create yourself.