Passwords, our digital keys, wield a quiet power today. They protect everything from personal details to financial assets, making them prime targets for hackers. With this power comes responsibility and the ongoing struggle to keep our virtual lives secure.
To make a strong password, it’s crucial to understand how criminals gain access to them. One of the main ways is through a “brute force attack,” malicious software that tries thousands of potential passwords until it finally lands on the correct one.
Social engineering tactics geared towards compromising passwords are also on the rise. Through these methods, hackers can convince their victims to give them their passwords.
Some criminals go a step further and get their targets to disclose enough personal information to facilitate a brute force attack since many people often use names and facts from their lives in their passwords.
The development and utilization of AI have also made accessing passwords easier for cyber criminals. AI can and has been used for password cracking when exploited for malicious purposes.
According to ZDNet, half of the most commonly used passwords can be cracked by AI in less than a minute. And a Home Security Heroes report reveals that AI-powered cracking tools can crack 51% of common passwords in under 1 minute.
Password hacking is becoming common, which is not something to take lightly. In March of 2023, password manager LastPass suffered a breach that gave attackers unencrypted access to customers’ vault data, effectively revealing crucial user information like usernames and passwords.
Cracking any type of account can be quite lucrative, which means hackers won’t stop until they get it right. That means the name of the game is to have the best password hygiene possible to reduce the odds of a cyber criminal attempting to break past those defenses.
This article will walk you through 5 passwords that get progressively stronger while being easy to remember. Disclaimer: Since this blog post is available to anyone, you shouldn’t use any of the passwords mentioned below; they are purely meant as examples of good techniques.
Why having a strong password is important
Passwords are the first lines of defense of any account, whether social media, a business email, or, more importantly, your banking apps. Having a strong password will help protect your accounts and devices from unauthorized access, thereby protecting your personal information.
What are examples of strong passwords?
Phrases like this are infinitely stronger than more generic passwords containing various words because they’re harder for the artificial intelligence used by hackers to crack.
These programs usually run through every word in the dictionary, and adding grammar and syntax to the mix acts as a buffer to this tactic.
Passphrases also tend to have more characters, which makes them more robust by default. Mnemonic tricks and word associations will create a passphrase like this one easy to remember, even if you’re mixing upper and lowercase letters.
Passphrases of 4 to 5 words are the most optimal for securing accounts. It’s even better if the phrase doesn’t make sense. That way, if hackers are using more sophisticated software capable of common word associations, the misdirection can help your password withstand that increased scrutiny.
Everyone likes a burger, so the previous password would’ve gotten cracked eventually, but who likes yucky burgers? Plus, “yucky” is more uncommon than “bad,” for example.
Let’s take the previous password example to the next level by replacing letters with numbers they visually resemble. For example, an I or L becomes a 1; an E becomes a 3; an A becomes a 4; an S becomes a 5; and so on.
While this type of substitution is an easy way to remember your password, the technique, called leetspeak, also originates in the hacking world.
In other words, a criminal trying to obtain your password will know and use this technique during the account break-in process. A simple alternative is to switch the letter for the number right after the one it resembles. That way, it’s still fairly easy to remember, and a hacker may not be inclined to waste additional time going through a bunch of other numbers as alternatives.
Special characters are another great way to lengthen your password and to make it more challenging for attackers who use dictionaries as their reference point to guess. In fact, most websites today require you to use them when you create or change a password.
However, it’s still possible to use special characters in an obvious way. Punctuation should be put in the beginning or middle of a passphrase and never at the end so that the common way isn’t guessed right from the get-go.
The same goes for brackets. Invert them and sprinkle them in your passphrase in a random way that couldn’t be guessed by software using human examples.
Adding a nonsensical word like “Bwurgwur” is another method to confuse typical brute force attacks. The only way to crack it is by going through every letter combination, which can literally take years.
A good trick to make the word easier to remember is to make it phonetically similar to the word you’re trying to replace in the phrase. In this case, “bwurgwur” sounds similar to “burger,” but it would be impossible to guess outright.
How to remember strong passwords
The most common reason people are hesitant about creating strong passwords is that they’re complicated and, therefore, more difficult to remember—add to the fact that you’re recommended to have different passwords for every single account you own.
But there are ways to make it easy to remember strong passwords. Here are some.
- Use phrases instead of words. Stringing together multiple words that relate to each other can make them easier to remember. For example, instead of “food,” think of a way to strengthen the phrase “I’m hungry for food.”
- Take inspiration from poetry. Phrases or quotes that made an impact on you will have their special place in your head. Think of your favorite song, book, or poem, for example. Take your favorite line and customize it to come up with your password. Don’t forget to add symbols and numbers here to make it harder to guess.
Strong Passwords Are Crucial for Online Hygiene
While the strong password examples showcased in this blog post are great starting points to strengthen any account’s data protection, there’s more to a safe password than those techniques alone.
The most important (and, sadly, common problem) is reused passwords. One breach becomes a complete meltdown across your entire online ecosystem.
Additionally, passwords that include personal information are prime candidates to be included in a data breach. For example, the passphrases suggested above would be far weaker if your mother’s name was Laura.
While that last passphrase was the strongest in the article, it’s not exactly easy to remember. Using a password manager is the simplest way to leverage and store the best possible passwords.
They allow you to only have to remember one passphrase to unlock all your passwords, and they all come with at least some level of encryption out of the box.
Additionally, any password manager will come with a built-in, fully randomized password generator. This feature ensures you’ll have a different, difficult-to-guess protection layer for every account.
Because of the way password managers work, they don’t have to be easy to remember, and all the tricks mentioned in this article will be integrated by default.
Protecting your data with a Strong Password Kit
Download this Strong Password Kit for more password resources that you can share with users.