How much time did it take you to think up your online passwords? If you’re like most online users, not nearly enough. According to PCMagazine, the word “password” is the most popular password, followed by “123456” and “qwerty” These are not the most original passwords; anyone could easily guess these letters and numbers. And criminals do just that – every year, hackers correctly guess thousands of passwords, gaining access to bank accounts, credit card statements, and other personal documents. Fortunately, you can protect yourself from fraud and identity theft by creating a secure password.
First, think of a sentence you can easily remember. It might be a favorite quote from a movie, a line from your wedding vows, or even the punch line of a joke. Say you choose the punch line “to get to the other side” as your pass phrase. This sentence alone makes a good password; it is long and random enough to stump criminals. But by changing a few letters, you could make it even harder to guess.
Try misspelling some of the words in the sentence. Forget all of the spelling lessons you learned over the years, because this is the one time you will be rewarded for your bad spelling. By purposely misspelling several words in your pass phrase, you decrease the chances of a criminal figuring it out. With all the possible ways to spell “chicken,” a criminal might never guess that you decided to add an extra “K”. By misspelling some words in the example pass phrase, it becomes “too get to the other siide.”
Next, put that “Shift” key to work. Avoid capitalizing the first letter of each word – your sentence might be grammatically correct, but it is also easy to guess. Try capitalizing the last letter of each word, or convert every “t” in your sentence to uppercase. Or you can create a pattern by alternating between capitalizing the last letter of a word and the first letter of a word. The pass phrase will look like this – “toO Get tO The otheR Siide.”
Lastly, add numbers and symbols to your pass phrase. Your goal is to turn a recognizable word into gibberish. To create a password you can easily remember, use symbols that closely resemble letters. The number “3” looks like the letter “E,” and the plus sign “+” resembles the letter “T.” And don’t forget punctuation symbols. Brackets, quotation marks, and colons are rarely used in passwords – making them the perfect addition to your secure pass phrase. By adding numbers and symbols, the final pass phrase becomes “toO G3t  +he o+heR Siide!”.
Once you have taken your simple pass phrase and changed it into a complicated string of letters, numbers, and symbols head over to Microsoft’s website. At https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/safety/pc-security/default.aspx, you can use the Password Checker to test the strength of your password. The ratings range from Weak to Best. Aim for the Best rating; if your password scores lower than Strong, head back to the keyboard and try again. The pass phrase “toO G3t  +he o+heR Siide!” scored a Best rating.
So now you have a sentence that can stump even the cleverest of criminals. But what do you do if the system doesn’t accept your password? Some websites impose length restrictions – passwords can be no longer than 20 characters. Other sites do not allow spaces in passwords. If the system does not accept your password, consider turning it into a mnemonic. A mnemonic is a device that helps people remember complicated phrases and lists. Take the first letter from each word in your password and combine these letters into a new – and unrecognizable – word. The pass phrase “to get to the other side” becomes “tgttos.” Mnemonics make great passwords because they do not resemble any known word in the English language. Criminals will have a hard time guessing these random strings of letters, but you can recall them as easily as your address.