5 steps to making the locks on your computer as hard to break as the locks on your door.

As more of our lives move online, the more private information we have exposed to hackers. As with any form of crime, you are never completely safe, but the risk can be reduced significantly by taking a few simple steps when creating and safeguarding your password.

1. Don’t go for the obvious (and what is obvious?)

There is a general rule that the easier a password is to remember, particularly for a group of people, the easier it will be to crack. Worryingly, ‘password’ remains one of the most common choices, as does the user’s name, name of their setting, or date of birth. Even names of pets and relatives can be too obvious. One way to create a good password is to think of a line from your favourite song, then use the first letter of each word from that line. So, if your favourite song happens to be Humpty Dumpty, the password you’d create from the first line would be ‘hdsoaw’ (humpty dumpty sat on a wall). Not being a real word makes it harder to guess. Some hackers can use software to try to break your password so the longer your password is, the longer it will take to crack.

2. Mix it up

It might be harder for you to remember, but mixing letters, numbers and symbols will make it harder for hackers or people trying to guess your password. Most password systems are now case-sensitive, so throw in capital letters, and not just at the beginning.

So, add in a capital letter and the price of an hour session at your nursery and our Humpty Dumpty password could now become ‘hdsoaW£7’.

3. One size shouldn't fit all

Ideally, you should try to use a different password for everything you do, but that isn't always practical so try grouping them. You could have one for email and social media, a different one for work and another for online banking. That way, if someone cracks one of them, they won’t have access to your whole life.

4. Don’t leave it on your desk

You can have the hardest password in the world to crack, but that’s of little use if you leave it written on a Post-it note stuck to your monitor. To draw an analogy, you wouldn't leave your house key taped to the doorbell. Think of passwords as a modern version of keys and keep them to yourself. Other common places are keeping it in your address book or mobile phone. Try to make it easy to remember (like our song lyric suggestion) so you don’t need to write it down.

5. Saving your password in the browser

Most browsers now have a ‘remember me’ option, which means your password will be stored for next time you want to log in. What this means is that anyone using the computer after you won’t even need to guess your password; it will already be populated. They might not even use the computer with the intention of viewing private information but, presented with the chance to log in to your account, temptation might take over!

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