The Longer, the Better

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The Longer, the Better

The more characters that are in a password, the more difficult it is to crack. Most experts suggest passwords of at least eight characters, with recommendations that they be longer.

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Mix It Up

Include everything in the password, from letters and numbers to punctuation and symbols. The greater the variety, the more difficult the password is to break.

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Vary the Passwords

Don't make it easier on hackers by using the same password for every site. According to Microsoft's security experts, hackers steal the passwords from sites with weak security, then run around trying the user names and passwords on other more secure sites, such as with banks. Using the same password essentially creates a single point of failure.

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Change Passwords Often

This tip is particularly important for the most crucial accounts, such as banking, credit card sites and email. Security experts suggest changing them every three months or so, and setting an automatic reminder.

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Be Creative

According to Microsoft security experts, there are steps a user can take to create long, complex passwords: Start with a sentence or two, then remove the spaces between the words. Turn the words into shorthand or intentionally misspell a word or two, and then add numbers to the end of the sentence.

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Don't Make It Easy to Crack

Stay away from using dictionary words, proper nouns or foreign words, according to Symantec security experts. While passwords generally may be difficult for people to figure out, there are enough brute-force programs out there that can quickly crack them.

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No Personal Information

It's not difficult for hackers to get personal information about their targets, and then use that information to crack a password. People should avoid anything related to their own name, and that of their family members or pets, according to Symantec. In addition, users should stay away from numbers that are easy to recognize, like phone numbers and addresses.

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Randomly Generated Passwords

People should use them when possible. These passwords have no personal information in them, making them more difficult for hackers to crack. There are plenty of random password generators on the Internet.

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Writing Down Passwords

It's not always recommended, but many people do it anyway, given the large number of password-protected sites that they need to access. If a user needs to write the passwords down, the passwords should be stored somewhere safe, and not attached to a computer monitor or put into an unlocked drawer.

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Password Management Tools

Such software tools can be handy. They can be used to keep and encrypts lists of user names and passwords, creating a safer place for storing them.

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Rate Your Password

There are a number of sites online—such as How Secure Is My Password?—that can be used to see how easily a password can be cracked.

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