How I make a good password in a complex world

In our digital age, there is little that has become more important than choosing a good password to protect your information online. The Web has made it so not only do you need potentially multiple passwords, but passwords have needed to become more and more complex.

I remember the first password I ever received. It was for my bank ATM and consisted of four numbers. I thought it was a pretty good password because I had a hard time remembering it.

Gone are the days of four digit passwords, however. Now, most systems require at least eight characters, almost always alphanumeric and most needing at least one uppercase and one lowercase letter. Some systems even require a special character, such as an exclamation mark, a comma, period or some other "shifted" key on the keyboard.

Recently, we increased the password complexity level at my office from eight characters (what is required by Google Apps) to 10 characters. We are installing a new system that requires more complex passwords than most of our users have, and while the requirements for that system is only eight characters, we thought it made sense to move to 10 so we're ready for the next time.

So, what is a good password? As I mentioned above, alphanumeric combinations, at least 10 characters (for now) with some sort of special character should do it.

But, a password that long or complex is hard to remember, right?

No, it doesn't have to be. It can be a simple phrase, taking the first letters of the phrase, for instance, and doctoring it up.

Here's an example. One phrase I've remembered since grade school is "My very educated mother just showed us nine planets". I always remember this phrase as it's the order of the planets if you use the first character of each word (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto -- back when Pluto was a planet). You could use this phrase and make a password really easily: Mvemjsu9p! (I added the exclamation mark at the end to make it 10 characters. Note, this is NOT one of my passwords, it's just an example.)

This password, Mvemjsu9p!, satisfies the requirements above and is a pretty good password. According to, this password would take a desktop computer about 928 years to break.

That's just one example.

Another way to make a good password, if I have one already I like, is to add something either before it or after it. If I have a good password and it's all lower case, add some upper case letters to the beginning or end. Or, better yet, I add a special character at the start to make it even more secure.

Finally, using a password manager is a good way to keep track of them. I use LastPass to manage my passwords. There is a free and a premium version which allows for some cool features including the ability to keep your passwords with you in the mobile app.

Passwords should never be your name, or your spouses' name, or a pet name or your kids name or ... get the idea.

The most common passwords include sequential numbers, iloveyou and, my favorite, password.

Happy password creating!


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