How to Choose a Good Password

Main Image

Last month we gave you Sunny D fans some tips on safe online shopping. We follow up this month with advice on how to choose and remember secure passwords to keep you and your family safe online.

What’s the Problem?

You need a good password to protect yourself from anyone who may try and break into your online accounts. This could be your bank account, Facebook to try and set up a false identity, or your email.

The best way to understand what makes a good password is to understand how they are broken or ‘hacked’. Passwords are guessed by computer. Password crackers may run on many computers at the same time, often for days at a time, testing (guessing) passwords to see if they work. The most obvious passwords are tried first. That’s why it’s really important NOT to use any of the most common words in the dictionary as your password.

What not to use as a password:

  • Your name, nickname, maiden name, middle name, in any combination
  • The names of your children or a close relative
  • Any very common name eg Jo
  • Your birthday or an anniversary
  • Whole words that can be found in the dictionary – always replace some letters
  • Words or phrases with all the vowels removed
  • A sequence of numbers like 123456 or letters like abcdef
  • Your phone number or door number
  • A combination of letters next to each other on a keyboard eg qwerty or zxcvbn
  • Very common words used in passwords like days of the week, colours, fruit, animals.
  • Repeating characters like 2222333

How to choose a strong password 

  • Use a mix of alphabetical and numerical characters, and symbols if the website allows it.
  • Passwords are case-sensitive. Use upper and lower case.
  • A good password is at least 8 characters long.
  • Don’t use the same password for lots of different websites.
  • Never reuse a password. 
  • Use a sentence or phrase

The best way to create a password that cannot easily be broken is to use a sentence you’ll remember. Choose something you love, like Sunny D, make it into a phrase or a sentence, the longer the better, and take the first letter of each word. It needs to be a personal and memorable sentence.

Then add other letters and numbers. For example, “When life gives you oranges make SunnyD!” Taking the first letter of each word gives you wlgyomSD!

Or replace letters in the phrase with numbers and symbols. For example take the phrase ‘A Glass of Sunshine’. Replacing vowels with the dates 1971 and 1844 becomes 1gl9ss7fs1nsh1n844. However you shouldn’t make obvious substitutions, like $ for s, or 1 for the letter I.

Eve better, if you have problems remembering passwords, install password software like iPassword, LastPass, DashLane, KeePass or RoboForm. Once installed these programmes create strong, unique passwords and logs you in with a single click. You only need to remember one password to access the software.

If a site (like your bank account website) offer two-factor authentication, do use it. This is when you provide two separate pieces of information, for example your username and password, followed by a piece of information that only the user has access to at that moment.