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Posted September 16, 2015 by A-Jay Orr

5 GeniusTips for Creating Secure Passwords

Hackers won some pretty big battles in 2014, including the compromise of about 7 million Dropbox usernames & passwords, 145 million Ebay accounts, and 80 million Anthem accounts. Even the U.S. Military got hacked — 76 million accounts were infiltrated.

In many of the data breaches, including Anthem, hackers cracked in by using the username and password of a company executive. Don’t let your accounts become the next casualty. Follow these 5 genius tips for creating passwords so secure — they’ll stump even the smoothest cyber criminals:

1. Don’t Use the Same Password for All Accounts

Common sense — vary your password usage. If one of your accounts is compromised, you don’t want it to become an open invitation for every other account you have.

Just how many passwords should you use? Ideally, a different password for every single account. If that seems humanly impossible for you, shoot for as many as you can. Use a secure password manager like LastPass or RoboForm that organizes and stores your collection of usernames and passwords under one master password.

2. Use a Mix of Numbers & Characters

The more complex your password, the harder it will be to crack. But that doesn’t mean you should conjure a code you can’t remember later. Try substituting a “$” or “@“ symbol for the letter “s” or “a”. Choose to capitalize a letter in the middle of the password instead of at the start. Make your password at least 15 characters long (the longer the better) and don’t use things like your dogs name, your anniversary date or (seriously) your bank PIN for inspiration. Hackers can tap in to all sorts of resources for information that will help them crack your code.

3. Protect in Phrase

Your password should not be a word, or a phrase consisting of words, that you can find in the dictionary (i.e. "ILoveMyDog"). These types of passwords are easily hacked with a brute force attack. Instead type your phrase in code letters, symbols and numbers. A coded phase is easier for you to remember and harder for hackers to crack. For example:
  • I<32sbiCO (I love to snowboard in Colorado)
  • #10$U(+)fn4L (Number one OSU football fan for life)

4. Lie On Your Security Questions

Yep — for once someone is telling you to lie. Many of the answers to your security questions can be found by doing a simple google search on your name, or by trolling your social media pages (or the pages of your friends and family). Keep in mind — every great liar knows in order to be successful they’ve got to keep their lies straight. If you’re going to lie, make it a lie you can remember.

5. Don’t Use Keyboard Walks

Some of you try to get creative and take a more visual route to your password picking. You look down at your keyboard and choose a key pattern instead of a memorable combination of letters, numbers and characters.This is called keyboard walking and hackers are on to it.

The five most popular passwords include:

  • 123456 (keyboard walk)
  • Password
  • 12345678 (keyboard walk)
  • qwerty (keyboard walk)
  • 123456789 (keyboard walk)

It goes without saying that you should never share your passwords with anyone else, or post your passwords in a visible place. It’s also recommended you change your passwords every 90-120 days to keep hackers off your tail. Take it a step further and don’t repeat use of an old password for at least 18 months. But to truly protect yourself and your business from hackers, consider working with a professional CIO services provider, who will ensure all your security measures meet industry standards and remain up-to-date at all times.