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Simple Tips Add Muscle to Weak Passwords

If you're one of those people who uses "password" or "123456" as your password, you've got some work to do! Each of these passwords was listed in the top 25 worst of the year by SplashData, a leading developer of productivity and security applications.

Cyber criminals use sophisticated tools that can easily decipher weak or common passwords. To defeat them, avoid the most common password pitfalls:

  • Words spelled backwards, common misspellings, abbreviations and obfuscations such as "p@ssw0rd."
  • Sequences of letters or numbers, adjacent letters on your keyboard ("qazwsx"), doubled words ("stopstop") and words with numbers appended ("ford2011").
  • Any personal information such as birth date, Social Security number, license plate number, driver's license number, telephone number, address and similar information.

Here are some tips for building stronger passwords capable of standing up to cyber thieves:


  • Experts agree that passwords should be eight characters (or more) in length. A so-called brute-force attack by a computer hacker can easily defeat a password with seven or fewer characters.


  • Include letters, numbers, punctuation and symbols. The greater the variety of characters in your password, the better. If the password system is case-sensitive, use capital and lower-case letters.


  • To keep strong passwords effective, change them often. Set up an automatic reminder in your email calendar to change your passwords on a regular basis.


  • Avoid using the same password/user name combination on multiple websites. In particular, create unique passwords for online email, social networking and financial services websites.

Want to check the strength of your online passwords? Microsoft offers a password checker at You simply enter your password and a strength meter rates it weak, moderate or strong.

Having trouble remembering all of your different passwords? Try using a password manager application that organizes and protects passwords and can automatically log you into websites.

It's okay to write down passwords as long as they are kept in a safe place. The worst place to keep passwords? An unlocked desk drawer or taped to the monitor of your computer!

Start today by replacing your weak passwords with stronger versions that will reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft.