Whether you’re checking your grades on Canvas or registering for classes on ctcLink, you’ll need a password to log in to your account.
You may also need passwords to access restricted computers or networks. If you are encrypting files or other data, passwords play an important role in keeping that information secure too.
Michael Myers, Computer Information Systems and Computer Science faculty member, said being able to build durable passwords is a valuable skill.
“In a digital age, where everything you own, do, enjoy, or have interest in is online, it’s important to protect that information,” said Myers. “Nothing is uncrackable, or unhackable, but you should make it as difficult as possible.”
“If it’s important to you to keep your money, personal information, and family safe from hackers, then taking the time to create a strong password is very important,” he said.
While there is no one perfect way to make a password, there are some universal guidelines.
Myers recommends using a passphrase.
“Most people use things like H1ghl1ne89!, but these are no longer considered strong, no matter what the website says,” he said. “Using something like, ‘ILoveMyCatSparky1!’ is much better. Don’t use that one though, it’s mine!”
Personalizing your password isn’t always the safest bet though. Details about your pets or similar information can often be found online.
“If I have a Yorkie, and my password is Yorkies4Ever!, then a password cracker wouldn’t need to spend much time guessing,” said Myers. “Make sure your password has nothing to do with you, your birthday, your cat’s name, or your favorite sports team. Embrace the passphrase.”
One way to test your password’s strength is to use a credible website, like www.security.org. You should type in something close to, but not exactly the same as your chosen password. Then, you can see how long it would take a computer to crack it.
It’s also a good idea to make unique passwords for all of your accounts. While it may be easier to remember and reuse the same password again and again, this is not a safe practice.
“If a hacker gets your password, and you use it for Facebook, email, and banking, then everything else is within easy reach,” said Myers. “Also, don’t save them in your browser. It’s extremely easy to hack that.”
Similarly, while it may be convenient to use the same authentication (signing into accounts via Google, Twitter, or Facebook) across all devices, you run into the same problem.
“If a site lets you ‘Use Facebook to sign in,’ think to yourself: How many sites have I done that with, and how many sites does a hacker have access to if he cracks my Facebook password?”
Instead, create new accounts with different passwords for all the websites you use. To remember which password goes with which account, many people create lists on online documents or physical sticky notes. However, these documents can easily be stolen.
“The safest way to keep track of passwords is in your head. Your brain is unhackable,” said Myers.
Next time you need to set up a new password, keep these tips in mind. Use a passphrase that doesn’t contain personal information, and don’t reuse an old password.
Catherine Rasgaitis is web editor of the Thunderword.