3 Tips for Stronger Passwords This New Year

Fortify your digital defense with these safety ideas.

Conceptual illustration of two people entering a password. One password is weak and one is strong. iStock

A new year calls for new passwords. Weak passwords are one of the easiest ways for hackers to gain access to your information. According to Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report, over 40% of cyberattacks involve stolen credentials, making it a leading category of data breaches in the U.S. 

Many people are unaware that their passwords can be vulnerable to attack. Here are three tips for creating strong passwords to help evade cybersecurity threats.

1. Avoid the obvious. It’s tempting to make passwords something simple and memorable, such as “password” or “123456.” However, passwords like these are susceptible to brute force attacks, which are defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology as “accessing an obstructed device by attempting multiple combinations of numeric/alphanumeric passwords.”

The more predicable the password, the faster a hacker can guess the correct combination of numbers or letters. Using personal information, such as your name, street address or phone number can diminish password strength—and potentially divulge sensitive information. 

2. Use a passphrase. Using a passphrase instead of a password accomplishes two goals at once. First, it provides a simple way to recall your unique combination. Second, it decreases the likelihood that hackers will guess the combination, due to the high character count. So, instead of “Peace,” try something like “GetThePeaceOfMindYouDeserve.” 

3. Incorporate special characters. Many platforms now require you to use at least one symbol and one number in a password or passphrase. But, even if it’s not required, it’s a best practice to make use of them, as numbers and special characters add more complexity to your passphrase. Also be sure to use both uppercase and lowercase letters. For the example above, one might change “GetThePeaceOfMindYouDeserve” to “GetThePe@ce0fM1ndy0uD3serv3.” 

It’s recommended that you create a new and different passphrase for each app, program and account login you have. To keep these passphrases safe and organized, try using a password manager. Other programs, such as Norton (Coming soon: discounted for AAA Members), include password generation and management as features of their protection software. 

Set a reminder to change passphrases every three to six months, and you’ll be well on your way to a safer, more secure new year.

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