Ugh, passwords. We need them almost as much as we hate them. You’re not supposed to use the same password for all of your accounts, but who can keep track of more than one password at a time?
And don’t get me started about password complexity. I remember a time when your computer could be literally anything. Then came the 8 character minimum. Then it was numbers and letters. My new banking password has to have (1) at least 8 characters, (2) lower-case letters, (3) upper-case letters, (4) numbers, and (5) punctuation marks. That is quite literally insane.
The complexity required in our passwords by the Internet overlords has reached impossible-to-remember heights.
Here are a few easy strategies for picking passwords that will meet all of the requirements, but still be easy to remember:
(Some passwords are now required to include a syntax character. In those cases, I usually just add an exclamation point on the end.)
Strategy #1: The Date of Creation
I often use the date of account creation (or of password reset) as the password. For example, if I set up the account on Halloween, the password would be “October31st”. There are a few dates that are less than 8 characters (e.g., “May1st”). In those cases, I just add the four digits of the year onto the end (i.e., “May1st2014″).
Strategy #2: Name and Number
For passwords that need to be changed regularly, I use the first three digits of the user’s first and last names, and append a 3- or 4- digit number (usually chosen at random) onto the end. For myself, one potential password would be “AusLan760″. When it comes time to change the password, I just change the numbers to a new random set.
Strategy #3: Spaces, People, Spaces
Pick a proper name and a 3- or 4- digit number that is easy for you to remember, but bears no significance in your life. For example, “Terry” and “908”. Those two components will form the base of all of your passwords, and the context of the password itself will be the final component. If I had an account with Bank of America, the password would be “Terry 908 bank”. For Amazon, it would be “Terry 908 shopping”. This strategy is easy to use and creates passwords that are varied, but still easy to remember.
Bonus Tip: Security Questions
In September 2008, Sarah Palin’s Yahoo account was hacked and several of her emails were posted online. In what I would hardly call “hacking”, a 20-year-old college student had looked up Palin’s biographical data (like what high school she attended and what street she grew up on) and used it to successfully answer her account’s security questions.
When you go to set up the security questions for your account, answer them according to your favorite fictional character, or your best friend, or a famous celebrity. This will make your questions impossible for a stranger to crack, but easy to verify if you forget the answers.