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by Michael Paul

When's the last time you really thought about how you create passwords to access all that good stuff on your computer? Yesterday? Last week?


Your personal passwords are the keys to accessing information you stored on your PC or online accounts. Creating safe passwords is important to prevent malicious users from stealing this information and using your name and account to open credit cards, apply for mortgage, or steal your identity for online transactions.

In most cases, these identity theft attacks may occur without you knowing it, until it becomes too late. To prevent this from happening, create strong passwords and keep them well protected.

The trouble with creating strong passwords is that most folks don't have a really clear idea of what a strong password really is. While it's not always easy to spot a strong password, weak passwords are extremely easy to point out.

And just because your password is strong for you, doesn't mean it will be strong for someone else. Keep the following items in mind when you are creating your passwords. If your chosen super secret code has any of the following attributes, chances are you're not picking a very strong password. Scratch that, rewind, and try again.

The following are the top 7 signs of a weak password, in no particular order:

Short passwords. The shorter a password is, the easier it can be for a hacker to figure it out. I know that having a short password makes it easy for you to remember, but it also makes it easy for everyone else. Avoid short passwords. An average password should be at least eight or more characters.

No character combinations. OK, so it's easier for you to just use letters or numbers. Have you ever thought about using any of those symbols on your keyboard? You should

No character variations. Remember those characters we just talked about? If you use fewer kinds of characters in your password, the longer it should be. A 20-character password made up of random numbers and letters is about 35,000 times stronger than a 10-character password made up of a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

No use of the good ol' shift key. If you press down the "shift" key, a variety of symbols can be added to your password to make it stronger. These symbols can include punctuation marks or any symbols that are unique to your language.

Lots of repeated characters. Sure, you can have your password be "44444444". Your friendly neighborhood identity thief will thank you. Passwords such as "4444", "1234, "qwerty", or any adjacent letters on the keyboard do not make your passwords secure.

Look-alike substitutions. You thought you were so slick by using a "0" for "o" or even "$" for "s". Not hardly. Malicious users who may possibly crack your passwords cannot be fooled by look-alike replacements. However, if you wish to include look-alike substitutions, strengthen your passwords by adding case variations, misspellings and character length.

Your name is your login name. Avoid using any part of your name, social security number or birthday. These kinds of data are the first things criminals will try to guess.

Here's one of the top keys that you can use to avoid those weak passwords and keep the bad guys out. In developing a strong password, think of a sentence that you will not forget, such as "my daughter is three feet tall". If your password system support phrases, use your sentence as a password and add spaces between each character. Conversely, if the system cannot recognize phrases or sentences, convert the sentence into a password, such as "mditft" or "mdi3ft".

After creating a strong password, always remember your passwords by heart or write them down. Contrary to popular belief, writing down passwords is not that dangerous - as long as you keep them safe from others.

About the Author

Who else wants to keep their computer more secure? 15 insider tips for increasing your PC security await you at PC Security Secrets Revealed!

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