How secure is your password?

If you’re like most people, your password is not nearly secure enough to thwart a hacker from getting into your account. The reason why most people don’t choose a secure password is that it makes it more difficult to remember. There are many ways to improve your ability to remember a complex password. This article at Naked Security has a video explaining one method.

But how do you know if your password is really secure? I’ve recently learned of a web site which will let you know just how difficult it is to crack your password; How Secure Is My Password?

To test, I ran a few passwords into it to see how secure they are. For example, kangaroo comes up with the result of “Common Password: In The Top 2,490 Most Used Passwords Your password is very commonly used. It would be cracked almost instantly.” Adjust that with some numbers (replacing the o with zeros) to kangar00 and we get a result of 3 hours to crack the password. Make more adjustments (replacing the a with @) to k@ng@r00 gives us a result of 2 days to crack the password. Much better. It looks less like a dictionary word; has numbers, letters, and symbols; and is easy to remember. Throw in a capital letter, k@ng@R00, increases the cracking time to 57 days.

Increasing the length of your password will also make it harder to crack (this is why some sites have minimum password lengths). I put in a random string of six characters, Mn0#85, which could be cracked in about 13 minutes. Adding a 1 to the end of that increased the cracking time to 17 hours. Add a $ to that to achieve 57 days. Add j to make 12 years the new length to crack. New random 12-character password, KGkDqd#12$7O, will take 5 million years.

Now, the times are approximate, but as you can see, each additional character adds a greatly increasing amount of time to crack the password. Using just lower-case letters, a 12-character password, xlgcezhdkpnm, will only take 12 years. From 12 years to 5 million years by just adding mixed case, numbers, and symbols.

There is a companion site, Make Me a Password, which will generate a password for you. It will start with words and put in some common substitutions to make the password easier to remember (use the check-boxes to see how that works).

Why are you still reading this? You should be going to all your important sites (especially banking and investing, followed by on-line stores). Don’t delay. Make this one of your New Year’s resolutions.

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