Few would disagree that passwords are a part of our everyday lives. Most people use passwords for various different things, including to log in to their computer, email, instant messaging clients, social networks and online banking. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The average person is guaranteed to encounter having to enter their password(s) several times throughout a typical day. And with the recent security breaches that have taken place at LinkedIn and eHarmony, this is probably a good time to go over some good password tips and advice.

One of the biggest problems people have with passwords is the fact that they are too weak. What does that mean? If your password is one of the top five most common passwords, “123456,″ “12345,″ “123456789,″ “password” or “iloveyou,” it is time to change it. Additionally, if your password is a word that can be found in the dictionary — it is time to change your password.

Why, you ask? Research has shown that in many cases, an account can be broken into within 150 attempts to crack the password. As people start storing more sensitive and important data online and on computers that are connected to the Internet, it’s very important that security is a top priority for everyone. This includes the account owner (you) and the company/website (Google, Facebook, Bank Of America) where the account resides.

So what types of passwords should be avoided at all costs? Standard English words as password are always a no-no. This gives people with malicious intent the ability to use a method known as a dictionary attack, in which every word in the dictionary is systematically tried as a user’s password until they find the one that works. Any password that is fewer than six characters should be avoided as well, as computers today are very powerful and can run millions of different password combinations fairly quickly.

How do you create a good password?

Good passwords typically are at least eight characters (the more characters the better) in length and include upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters, such as the dollar sign, ampersand or the at (@) symbol. Doing so will make it much more difficult for someone to guess or systematically crack your password, and ultimately helps to keep your account safer. Ideally, you should never use the same password twice or at the very least use a different password for your bank/credit card account than you do for everything else.

While committing several different passwords may sound like a daunting task, password management solutions such as 1Password, Passpack, and LastPass can help you make the process of storing your passwords a much simpler task. If you need help creating a good password check out GRC’s Perfect Password and PC Tools Secure Password Generator.

Perhaps most importantly of all, be smart with your password. Don’t share it or give it out to people or unfamiliar websites and if possible avoiding logging to bank or credit card accounts on public computers.

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