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By Juan Sosa

The definitive guide to not getting hacked

Many factors are out of your control when it comes to staying safe online, but one thing you can control is how strong your password is. Good passwords are necessary to avoid getting all your accounts compromised when your bank or favorite website gets hacked. However, creating strong passwords that are secure and different for each site you visit can be a difficult task to accomplish since you want them to be both strong and easy to remember. So instead of memorizing dozens of passwords, you're can to create a set of rules for generating passwords for every account you have.

Creating a secure password

Passwords require three specific things to be secure: length, the inclusion of all possible character types, and randomness.

Length: This is by far the most important aspect of a password. The longer the password, the harder it will be to crack. A modern password should have a minimum of 12 characters.

Character types: When creating a password, you want to use lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters. This expands on the character space that brute force software needs to search to crack your password.

Randomness: The truth is randomness isn't actually needed if you follow the two steps above because having a long password that also includes all character types is inherently random.

Surprisingly, Mypassw0rd! is more secure than $Vj&stP5. While the latter is more complex to the human mind, it actually is easier for a machine to crack because it is only eight characters long. Mypassw0rd! is easier to memorize and includes all possible character types, and because it is four characters longer, it will take much longer to crack.

Those are all things you want to include in your passwords, but let's take a look at some of the things you want to avoid. Over the years, hackers have become smarter about the way they crack passwords. The software they use no longer starts at 00000001 and goes on to infinity; they now try common patterns first and then move on to random combinations.

Avoiding weak combinations

You want to avoid dictionary words. Any word found in a dictionary will be cracked within a few fractions of a second.

You also want to avoid name and number patterns. A common pattern looks like this: John35 or monkey123. Not only are these passwords often times too short to be secure, but modern password cracking software tries these before moving onto something more secure like johnlikesPizza2?.

Creating a password for every site

Now that you know how to create secure passwords, you need to figure out a way to generate a different password for every site you visit. You can do this by setting up rules that identify differences between specific sites and incorporate them into your password. This means having elements that remain constant across all your passwords but also at least one element that changes depending on the site.

An example is identifying what the site is used for, so your Google account password may look like Mysearchpass5% while your Facebook password may be Mysocialpass5%. Notice how we consistently used "My," pass," "5," and "%." That's acceptable because as long as one character is different, it is a different password, meaning if your Facebook password gets hacked, your Google password is still safe.

Combining strong passwords with rules that help you have different passwords for different websites site will bring you one step closer to having a safe online presence.

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