Nobody wants to experience identity theft on the internet—then why are most of us still using 123456 as a password? Statistically, the passwords everyone picks because they are easy to remember are the ones that end up getting hacked.

If you can even call it hacking, it’s more like the bad guys make a lucky guess.

So what is a strong password? When you create a strong password, leave all your old habits at the door. It shouldn’t be easy to type, guess, or use anything obvious to you, like your birthday. Try these five tips for creating stronger passwords.

1. Mix It Up

Mix It Up

One of our first tips for password management is to mix it up with numbers, characters, and letters. An old-school way of thinking about this would have told you that “abc123!” was good enough. It’s not anymore.

Now, try to make it more complex. Strong password examples are something like “c1$b2#[email protected]” If you can, shake logical patterns like letters or numbers that all come in a row. The more random you make it, the harder it is to breach.

2. Get Long

Each letter, number, or character added to a password is one more hurdle for a hacker to jump through. The longer you create a password, the harder it is to guess.

If the instructions say to pick a password between 8-16 characters, go for 16.

3. Your Kid’s Birthday

Not only are birthdates a straightforward format for a password (MMDDYY), but they are often well-known.

Anyone you’ve got added on Facebook knows your or your children’s birthdates.

4. Make It Unique

Make It Unique

It’s so much easier to use the same password for multiple sites. But consider this: your e-mail gets hacked.

Deep in the dark corners of your inbox, you have a confirmation from every single online profile you’ve ever made. This includes every online shopping account you’ve ever added your credit card to, your credit card account itself, and even your online banking login.

If your password is the same for all of those, how much faster will hackers be able to access all of your information?

5. Don’t Associate It with the Site

Ordering from Chipotle, and you make your password “taco123”? That’s almost worse than “123456.”

If you need to make your password associated with the site to remember it, then use something from real life that only you would associate with that place. Did you have your first date at that Chipotle? Great—use that as a reminder for your password instead.

Don’t Forget to Use Your New Strong Password Skills

Don't Forget to Use Your New Strong Password Skills

Now that you’ve used these tips to develop strong password ideas don’t forget to update all of your accounts with your strong password. Start with the most important, like your e-mail, financial accounts, and medical records.

Shore up your social media accounts as well. Even if they are not as dangerous as your credit card log-ins getting into the wrong hands, a hacked profile can cause social distress.

Learn more about how to protect yourself online with our other online safety articles.

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