How secure is my password?

“Better safe than sorry” may be an old saying, but when it comes to your email password, it definitely still holds true. Because if an unauthorized person gains access to your email account, it can have serious consequences.

Besides correspondence you’d rather keep private or all the details of your freelance business, your inbox may contain data about your bank account and login credentials for other important sites you use. In other words, your password is the key that unlocks access to this personal data. In honor of World Password Day, shares the five best tricks for a strong password.

Metal lock on laptop keyboard
A strong password is like a lock protecting your email account

The importance of email password security

When creating an email account, it’s all too easy to choose a password like QWERTY123 or the name of your pet or favorite team. But passwords like that are also extremely easy to guess, and that’s the last thing you want. After all, if someone hacks into your email account, they can see all your emails – including messages from all the online services and stores you use. From there they could go to your favorite online shopping site, enter your email address, click the “Forgot password” button, and in less than a minute receive a password that lets them log in to that site as you. To avoid these problems down the road, you can follow our tips for keeping your password secure and avoiding the biggest password mistakes.

How to create a strong password:

1.  Good passwords are a mix of letters, numbers and special characters

A safe password will always contain several upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (! # $ % [ ] * + = ?, etc.). It’s not enough to simply replace one letter with a number or add an exclamation mark at the end of a word – such passwords are still easy to crack. Go ahead and mix things up! And be sure to avoid number and/or letter sequences like 1234abcd.

2. Longer passwords are more secure

The longer a password is, the less likely it is that a hacker will be able to crack it. The absolute minimum number of characters is eight, and in the meantime security experts recommend that you use 12 or even 16 characters for optimal password strength.

3. Don’t reuse the same password for multiple accounts or services

It may be easier to just remember one password for all your logins, but if there is any kind of cyberattack or data leak at one of the online services you use, cybercriminals will then hold the key to all your other online accounts as well. If you find it challenging to keep track of all your different passwords, consider using a reputable password manager.

4. Use a mnemonic to create a strong password

If you are looking for strong password ideas, the old trick of taking a memorable sentence and using a character to represent each word of the sentence is still good advice. Just make sure your mnemonic includes numbers and symbols as well as letters. To take one well-known example, the famous quote “To be or not to be - that is the question!” becomes  “2B/n2B-titq!” Choose sentences about your own life and use them to create unforgettable and safe passwords.

5. Don’t use just one word that can be found in the dictionary

In a so-called “dictionary attack,” a hacker essentially tries lists of words found in a dictionary as possible password options to gain access to accounts. So even an obscure word like “octothorpe” will not protect you in such cases, nor will a word in a foreign language. However, combining several words in a random order (with the requisite upper- and lowercase letters) – like “Octothorpe#CoffeeRoseParis” – can create a strong password that is still easy for you to remember.

Do you need to change your password regularly?

Another advantage to choosing a super-strong password is that you no longer have to change it as often – only if you suspect you’ve been hacked or someone else has gotten hold of it. In fact, cybersecurity experts have pointed out that the practice of forcing people to change their passwords at short intervals can actually lead to less secure passwords as people run out of ideas and simply switch from “Password1” to “Password2”. So if you take the time to come up with a secure, 12+ character password and keep it to yourself, then you won’t have to think up a new one anytime soon.

What about multi-factor authentication?

To add an extra layer of protection, you can set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for your account and many other online services. With 2FA activated, you are asked to provide a numerical code in addition to your password. Since this code is generated anew using a smartphone authenticator app each time you log in, your account remains safe even if your password should fall into the wrong hands.

If you need assistance with your password, please visit our Help Center.

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