Quick Tips for Creating Strong Passwords

The easiest way to protect your sensitive data is to up your game when it comes to choosing login passwords.

SplashData, an online security provider, compiles an annual list of the most popular passwords online based on analysis of leaked user data. The top five most popular passwords in 2014 were:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. qwerty

The best way to protect yourself is by using a password manager. Marathon’s CEO, Scott Wilson, wrote a simple guide to getting started on KeePass, a free and open source password manager. Programs like these make it easy and safe to keep track of all of your online security information in one place.

If a password management program is not something you’re comfortable using, here are some tips to choose a stronger password:

Use a combination of letters (capitals and lowercase), numbers and special characters (!,@,#,etc.) when allowed . Use all of the options that are available when you create a new password. Each additional character type in your password increases the level of protection it provides.

Go long. Longer passwords are exponentially harder to break. Use as many characters as you are allowed (and can remember).

Add the capital letters in unexpected places. Changing Brooklyn into “brOOkLyn” or Manhattan into “manhAttAn” is another easy way to customize your password.

Use phonetics. Turn a common word or phrase into a stronger password that is easy to remember with some creative spelling. Change “funnybone” into “phunEbone53%^” or “red ruby” into “redRooBE##1.”

Don’t uss information that is easily linked to you. Avoid using your kids’ names, birthdays or other personal information. This data is the first place a hacker would start if one of your accounts ever became a target.

Turn a phrase or quote into a password. “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” becomes “0RR!w4atR?” It’s still a good idea to add extra custom characters to your phrase. This personalization can prevent a hacker with fondness for Shakespeare from feeding text into a program to see if they can find account passwords set up this way.

The main thing is to make sure you do something to protect yourself. Any of these tips are smart ways to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a data breach.

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