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A Guide to Creating the Perfect Password

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As part of our Security for Life campaign, which aims to provide advice and guidance on keeping your personal data safe online, we have launched two e-books that you can download and keep, taking you through the basics of computer security.

The following is a small extract from our Consumer Security e-book, which covers topics such as why security is important and how to browse safely. This section discusses how to create the perfect password; if you find the following useful, you can access the full e-book to find out more here.

Creating the Perfect Password

We use so many different web services these days that most of us have a vast number of passwords to keep track of. The more passwords you need to remember, the more the tendency is to keep them simple and obvious, so you'll be able to remember what they all are. The problem with that of course is the simpler/more commonly used your password, the easier it is in theory for your account details to be hacked.

The key to remembering a host of passwords while still making them secure is to choose a simple theme, but just be creative about how you enter it. This means using techniques like spelling words backwards, substituting letters for numbers that look the same (think about how they are used on personalised number plates) or even shifting across one letter on your qwerty keyboard (so 't' becomes 'r' and 'r' becomes 'e', for example). This technique can make even simple, easy-to-remember words into secure passwords: the names of your children, for example, could be transformed from Richard, Elizabeth and Michael to drahcir, el1z4b3th and nuxglwk.

You can make things even more secure by using word combinations and even phrases, of course, but it's important that you're careful about reusing passwords. Ideally, every different web service that you use would have its own unique password, but understandably this is simply too much for some people to remember.

Some accounts should be prioritised for having unique passwords. Since on many web services your username is your email address, your email account should have a unique password. Otherwise, if you have the same password for your email address as for your social media profile, anyone hacking the latter now has access to your email account. Any password attached to a financial account, such as online banking or PayPal, should also have a unique password.

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