Trick for Safer, Easier-to-Remember Passwords

Upgrade Your Life

Which of these passwords is harder to crack?

DOG!(!(!(!(!(! or PrXyc5NFn4k77

Amazingly, it’s the easier-to-remember password. Watch the video above to find out why – and what it means for your password security.

[Related: Is it Safe To Bank on Public Wi-Fi? How Not To Get Hacked! ]

Password tricks

Make passwords more secure:

* Add letters: Since there are 26 letters in the alphabet, one additional letter can make your password much harder to crack.
* Use a mix of lower and uppercase letters: Mixing up your cases adds complexity and safety to your chosen password.
* Add numbers: Using letters, words, and phrases for your passwords seems both natural and easy to remember, but it's much safer to diversify.
* Add symbols: Symbols are the real secret ingredient to security. Since there are over 1500 symbols a hacking program needs to run through to correctly lock down one character of your password, adding one extra asterisk or exclamation point can make it dramatically more difficult for intruders to pry open your personal accounts.

Password length = Password strength

Most websites prompt you to create a code with a minimum and maximum amount of characters, often between 8 and 14. Since each additional character increases your odds of staying safe, be sure to max out the length of your password. If you can enter 14 characters, don't stop at 10 — those extra 4 characters will work to your statistical advantage.

Here's an example: compare the passwords m00se44 verses m00se44!.!.!.!

Sure m00se44 might be faster to type, but m00se44!.!.!.! is a far safer bet. How much safer? According to a handy online brute force simulator, hackers could crack m00se44 in less than a second. What about m00se44!.!.!.!? Assuming that the hacking software is guessing one hundred billion combinations a second, believe it or not, it could take the same software almost 200,000 centuries to crack it.

Password padding: Symbols are your secret weapon

It used to be that a random password like Pr5^w4''t3F was perceived to be the best password. But the reality is that people can't actually remember those totally random passwords, so they don't end up using or sticking with them.

To solve this dilemma, Security researcher Steve Gibson wanted to create a memorable password strategy that would be equally secure. He stumbled onto the idea that long passwords loaded with symbols can be both ultra-secure and yet also easily memorized. He came up with the following example to prove his point.

Which of these is easier to remember? Which is more secure?


The more memorable password is D0g!(!(!(!(!(! since it looks like the familiar word "dog" and ends with a repeating pattern of symbols. And according to Gibson, D0g!(!(!(!(!(! is also the more secure password because, while it too has numbers, letters (upper and lowercase), and symbols, the first example is one character longer than the random second password — and it has more symbols.

Want to see this effect in action? Play around with Gibson's password security calculator yourself.