Password ‘ABC123’? Yeah, Change That

Of all the outlandish aspects to Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ books, the one I always had the hardest time accepting was the seemingly instant ability of Lisbeth Salander, Larsson’s unlikely computer-hacking hero, to work out any and every password she wants.

However, last week when SplashData released a list of the 25 of the most commonly stolen passwords of 2013, suddenly the Salander character seemed more credible to me.

The top 5 are:

– 123456

– password

– 12345678

– qwerty

– abc123

(By the way, ‘qwerty’ is just the first six keys on the top letter row of a keyboard)

According to PC World, “weaker passwords are more susceptible to brute-force attacks, where hackers attempt to access accounts through rapid guessing. And when encrypted passwords are stolen, weaker ones are the first to fall to increasingly sophisticated cracking software.”

Check out all 25 of the worst offenders, and if any of your Internet passwords are among them, change them pronto.

The real trick, of course, is to find a safe password that you can remember.  Here are a few steps that will help:

1) Strengthen: Norton by Symantec’s website suggests that, for a strong password, “use upper and lower case characters along with numbers, punctuation marks or other symbols” and make your passwords long.

2) Avoid: Norton’s advice, while valuable, can be difficult to implement considering everything you shouldn’t use in password creation. For example, Microsoft’s ‘Safety and Security’ web page suggests not using “Dictionary words in any language”; “Words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and abbreviations”; “Common letter-to-symbol conversions” (for instance, changing ‘to’ to ‘2’); “Personal information that could be guessed or easily discovered.”

3) Create: Don’t be discouraged. Even with all of these conditions, it’s possible to make a secure password that you can remember. One of the best ways I’ve discovered is to use the names of a couple characters from a movie (or book, or TV show) that you love. Remove the vowels and add a number or symbol that makes sense. For instance, I love “Clueless.”  In this movie, two characters, Elton and Tai, prove to be a mismatch in the love department. So, my password could be (and, for the record, it’s not) ‘CllssEltn&T?’, which stands for ‘CluelessElton&Tai?’  It’s all about strategy!

Do you have suggestions for creating good, strong Internet passwords? Tell us in the comments or in a blog post.

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