Creating Complex but Easy to Remember Passwords

Everyone knows that in today's tech-heavy world, it's crucial that we use good, strong, hard-to-guess passwords to prevent others from accessing our personal and/or sensitive data (bank accounts, medical records, email, etc). Unfortunately, that often means using passwords that are nearly impossible to remember. As a result, we negate the entire effort by writing our password on a sticky note, and posting it on our screen.

Raise your proverbial hand if this is you.

Fortunately, I have some tips on how to create a strong password, and at the same time, make them easy to remember.

First, let's talk about what makes a good password. There are definitely some things you want to take into account when creating a good password. Here's a list of those considerations.

Passwords should:

  • be at least 8 characters long
  • have a combination of numbers, letters and special characters
  • NOT include your name
  • NOT include personal info (birthday, SSN, etc)

With rules like that, it can be overwhelming to create a good (and still easy-to-remember) password. Here are some ideas to help. Instead if using letters, replace them with numbers or special characters that look like the letter you're replacing. For example, instead of using the word "technology", try using "T3chn0|0gy". On the surface, this may seem harder to remember than the just using the word. Guess what, you're right. However, not only does it creat a much stronger password than just the word "technology", but it's still visually easy to remember (and trust me... you'll get used to it after entering it a few times). After entering this sort of password a few times, your memory muscle will kick in.

Another tip to creating good passwords comes in the form of using 4-digit PINs. Rather than using 4 random numbers, try using 4 numbers that form a pattern (such as a diamond, line or square). Avoid using sequential numbers (i.e.: 1234, 5555) or personal information (i.e.: garage codes, birth dates, etc) as your PIN. This is bad for two reasons: 1) they may be easy to obtain from other sources and 2) if they guess your PIN and it happens to be the same as your garage code, they now have access to your home.

As a last recommendation, you may want to consider using a password manager to help remember passwords. The more passwords we have and use, the harder it is to remember those passwords. I use an app called 1Password. It's a great app because it's cross-platform (works on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS), and is great at syncing between devices (make a change on your Mac, and it syncs very quickly to your iPhone). There are lots of options out there. Find one that works for you, and use it.

Posted on May 20, 2016 and filed under How To, Opinion.