The Need For Strong Passwords

We've all enjoyed the ease & convenience that faster CPUs and GPUs have brought us over the past couple of decades. However, those same faster processing capabilities have made it easier than ever for hackers to crack our passwords. What does a GPU (graphic processing unit) have to do with password security and the need for strong passwords? I'll explain.

It's called general-purpose computing on graphics processing units, or GPGPU for short. This is a new process where powerful graphic processors, which are designed primarily for video processing functions, are instead converted to perform computation functions that are normally handled by the CPU. The end result is a GPGPU that can perform billions of calculations per second. These computers can crack short or weak passwords in mere seconds.

So, if you haven't already, it is very important to use strong passwords, especially in areas where finances or personal information are concerned.

In this article, I'll explain how you can create secure passwords that are easy to remember, plus point out some other steps you can take to safeguard your password information.

What Exactly Makes A Password "Strong"?

There are two basic factors which will make your passwords stronger and more secure - multiple character types and the length of your password.

Use Multiple Characters - Passwords that are composed of only lowercase letters are common and very easy to crack. You need to use one of each main character type.

The four character types are:

  • Lowercase Letters
  • Uppercase Letters
  • Numbers
  • Special Characters - !@#$%^&*(){}[]

Strong passwords should include at least one of each character type, if allowed.

Longer Is Stronger - Every single character you add increases the security of your password by a large amount. For a strong password, I recommend 15 characters minimum. Many studies suggest that 8 or 12 characters is enough, but with computer processors getting more and more powerful, 15 or longer is a much safer bet.

Creating Strong Passwords That Are Easy To Remember

Unfortunately, it's not easy to memorize a password like Zx4ub82!pKq#Yj7, although that would be a rather strong password (15-characters long with all four types of characters). There is one way to create passwords that are just as strong, but very easy to remember. You just need:

  • One person you like with a 3-word name (first, middle, last)
  • Two years of importance associated with that person
  • Two special characters of your choice: !@#$%^&*(){}[]

Step #1 - To begin, just use the first 3 letters of their first, middle and last names. Keep the first letter of each name capitalized and remove the spaces between the names. For this example, we'll use a very famous person - Martin Luther King:

  • End of step #1 - So, Martin Luther King is shortened to MarLutKin

Step #2 - He was born in 1929 and died in 1968, so we'll use those numbers. Just use the last two digits of each year (29, 68). Next, intersperse those numbers between the three shortened words of their name from step one:

  • End of step #2 - MarLutKin becomes Mar29Lut68Kin

Step #3 - Then simply sandwich that password between special characters of your choice:

  • End of step #3 - A nice 15-character strong password: #Mar29Lut68Kin!

That's just an example. With your own passwords, pick someone who is important to you - like a favorite author, relative, friend, or historical figure. For the years, use their date of birth, date of death, the years they attended high school or college, the year they founded their business, got married or divorced, won something, or did something else very memorable.

Here's three more examples:

  • Joseph Hill "Joss" Whedon (worked on "Buffy" from 1997 to 2003): @Jos97Hil03Whe^
  • Hans Christian Andersen (lived from 1805 to 1875): *Han05Chr75And}
  • Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger (Governor from 2003 to 2011): $Arn03Alo11Sch%

Note: If you are a lazy typist (like me), then just arrange it so all the letters are first, numbers second, and symbols (or your choice of order). Example: ArnAloSch0311$%

As long as you can remember a person's full name and remember two special years associated with them, then it's very easy to create memorable passwords that are also strong.

Additional Password Security Measures

Using strong passwords is a great step towards being secure online. However, there are some additional steps you can take to be even more secure.

Use A Secret Email Address For Resets - Do you use the same email address for password resets on all your accounts? Perhaps the same address you use everyday? Ever consider if that one account got hacked? The hacker would be able to do password resets on all the accounts you have registered to that same email address. Don't believe it could happen? Then read about the recent epic hack suffered by a Wired Magazine editor.

The best thing to do is create a secret email address that you only use for online registrations and password resets. It is hard to hack an email address if no one knows it exists.

Two-Step Authentication - Some places offer the ability to use two-step authentication for access to your account information or to reset a password. If they offer it, use it. Although it may be a pain to setup, it can save you a ton of pain, especially on financial accounts.

Definitely take advantage of Google's Two-Step Account Authentication.

Don't Have Just One Password - If a hacker gets your username and password for one site, chances are he'll try the same username/password combo on several other major sites. You want to have different passwords for work and personal use. Also, make sure each financial institution you have an account with has a completely unique password.

Password Management Tools - Are you finding yourself with simply too many usernames and passwords to keep track of? Then try one of these well-reviewed Password Managers:

These password managers allow you to use just one password in your daily online affairs while keeping all of your various account passwords encrypted and secure.

Additional Password Security Resources:

I've given you my way to create memorable strong passwords, but if you'd like more information, then here are some of the best resources that I know of: