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How to Create Infinite, Unique, Strong Passwords Without Forgetting

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01/07/2016 02:00 SAST | Updated 01/07/2017 11:12 SAST

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Passwords are required just about everywhere you go on the web. Whether you are posting on a casual blog or accessing bank statements, a password is required. Unfortunately passwords get stolen, guessed, and hacked all too often, and most likely, it will happen to you. In fact, most likely, it is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when someone will gain access to your accounts and there are several ways that this can happen to you. Thankfully, there are multiple methods you can use to reduce the chances of this occurring, and lessening the damage that occurs when if and when it does.

Case for strong passwords

A password do you might have meanings such as words, dates, or other important symbols. But to a computer, it is just random numbers and letters combined in a sequence. As a result, there are tools available to hackers that test every possible letter, number, and symbol combination until they are able to achieve success. Fortunately, using a combination of upper & lower case letters in addition to numbers and sometimes symbols, we can create a string long and complex enough that only hackers with access to high end computing equipment would be able to crack. On the flip side, using numbers or words that might have a particular connection to you may leave you more venerable to close family and friends that may attempt to guess your passwords to gain access. In order to avoid both situations from occurring, use a combination of upper and lower case letters, but not necessarily in the order people would expect. For example, instead of my password being: 'MyPassword', I would make it: 'mYpassworD. This would make it more difficult for someone to guess or gain access to your password. Numbers and symbols would also help add strength to your passwords but I would urge you again to use them in various less typical ways. Rather than the password 'MyPassword1`, I would instead use the password, 'mY!passworD' which varied the capital letters, swapped the '1' with '!', and moved this to a less obvious middle of the two words. These simple changes are still fairly easy to remember and will add a high level of difficulty to your passwords.

The Case for Multiple Passwords

Unfortunately, as soon as you create a password, that password is now remembered by the website or service you are using it for. While you may have a password that is extremely strong, you are now not the only person that knows your password. Now the strength of your password is dependent on two things, the difficulty of the password phrase you are entering, and the security behind the website protecting it and this is where most people run into trouble. While your accounts with Google, Apple, or your large megabank may have teams dedicated to ensuring account details are protected from hackers via various degrees of encryption, your average photography blog may be storing your passwords in a plane text document where hackers can easily gain access to your email and password. And while you may not care that much initially about someone gaining access to your photography blog account, if you use the same password on multiple sites, you should immediately start caring. With access to your email and password for some random photography blog, I now have the ability to try that combination of email/password at all of the popular email providers, banks, and other secure places. If any of those combinations match, I will now easily have access to your banking accounts or email accounts without having to guess your password, or hack into Google's servers. Scary, isn't it. Even more secure websites may at some point be hacked exposing emails and passwords out in the open. The recent attacks at Sony, Gawker, and Myspace allowed criminal hackers to gain access to bank accounts and email accounts simply by exposing email addresses and passwords used at the Sony & Gawker websites.

How to create multiple passwords & How to remember them

By now, most people have accepted the fact that they are vulnerable by using the same password for multiple accounts, but already struggle to remember which of the 2-3 passwords they usually recycle are used for each account. If I cannot remember the 2-3 passwords I commonly use, how would I ever remember an infinite number of strong passwords? The answer is in a string. You do not need to make each password completely different to be unique. You may only need to alter 1 letter or number to ensure that password could never be used against you at another account. Returning to our 'MyPassword' example, let us explore some various ways we could differ this password at each website to keep things simple yet unique. One option is to add something unique to the front, back, or anywhere in the middle of our password that relates to the company. Let's say we use the first 3 letters of the business name and add them to the back of our password. Our 'MyPassword' string if I used it for Google then for example would then become, "MyPasswordGoo". And using the same password for Yahoo would turn it into "MyPasswordYah". If you want to make it even more complicated and difficult to guess, try including these tools in more unique ways such as the middle of the password like "MyGooPassword" or "GMyOPasswordO". You could also use other differentiators such as the last 3 letters of the business name instead of the first. This simple procedure just enabled us to have an infinite amount of passwords and we only need to remember 1 string.

Passwords protect everything we have and ensuring our security needs to be a top priority. Not only should your passwords be tough to crack, but they need to be unique for every site. Hopefully this guide has helped you to create 1 password that will be unique to every site you visit without forcing you to memorize 50 different passwords.

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