Creating Strong Passwords

With all the stories circulating today about identity theft, we all vow we will make our passwords strong enough to thwart even the most ingenious hacker. Unfortunately, we may not be sure how to accomplish this, so we put this task off and continue using the same easy password or some variation of it over and over again.

So what makes a strong password? Microsoft gives the following tips for creating a strong password:

  • Make your password as long as possible and no less than eight characters
  • Never use your real name or your user name
  • Avoid dictionary words
  • Use random characters
  • Always use characters from these four categories:  upper case letters (A, B, C); lower case letters (a, b, c); numbers; and special characters (@, &, *)
So how do we create that strong password? Consider using a passphrase. The word “beach” by itself is a weak password for obvious reasons. “ilovetogotothebeach” is a passphrase that is much better, but still could be improved. Testing these passwords in a password checker such as How Secure is My Password? ( shows that the word “beach” is a commonly used password and would take less than a minute for a PC to hack, while the passphrase “ilovetogotothebeach” would take would take 6 billion years to hack. This doesn’t mean that a more sophisticated hacker couldn’t guess the passphrase, but it does show that adding length to our passwords can make them more secure. Using a passphrase helps us create a strong password we won’t forget!