How to: Password Protected

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How to use a tough-to-crack password to prevent hacking into your computer system

October 5, 2012

Think of all the important data stored on your business’ computers. Customer lists, product R&D, employee info, budget – the list goes on and on. Cybercriminals would love to get their hands on that data. The first line of defense is a good password. Here are the keys to creating a password strong enough to keep the bad guys out.

Length: Make your passwords long, with eight or more characters.

Complexity: Include letters, punctuation, symbols, and numbers in your password. The greater the variety of characters in your password, the better off you’ll be. However, password hacking software automatically checks for common letter-to-symbol conversions, such as changing “and” to “&” or “to” to “2.”

Variation: To keep strong passwords effective, change them often. Set an automatic reminder for yourself to change your passwords every three months for sensitive accounts.

Variety: Don’t use the same password for everything. Cybercriminals steal passwords on websites that have very little security, and then they use that same password and user name in more secure environments, such as banking websites.

Here are some traits easily-hacked passwords have in common. If you’re making some (or worse, several) of these mistakes, you’re practically asking hackers to help themselves.

Don’t use:

  • Regular words you would find in a dictionary
  • Words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and abbreviations
  • Sequences or repeated characters. Examples: 12345, 222222, abcdefg, or adjacent letters on your keyboard (qwerty).
  • Personal information. Your name, birthday, driver’s license, passport number or similar information. These are easy for hackers to research and guess.

Think you’ve got it figured out? Check the strength of your password online at

Information from Microsoft’s Safety & Security Center