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Computing and Information Services

Passwords: how to help yourself

Keep it to yourself! Never tell your password to anyone, no legitimate individual or organisation will ever ask you for your password so requests either verbally or by email or text should be ignored.

Who's behind you? When you are entering your password, make sure that no one can see what you're typing.

Mix it up! Have a different password for different services or things: this is particularly important for your bank web site and any sites where you may have payment details stored.

Step away from the pen! Don't have your password written down: even if it's hidden under your keyboard or at the bottom of your third drawer down. 

Act quickly! Suspect someone might know your password? Change it straight away!

Go to the next level! For on-line banking or other sensitive transactions you can create an extended password and store them in strong vault like Keepass. This is a good idea for any transactions that must be secure but are not undertaken often.

Change it! Consider changing your password on a regular basis, particularly if it's less than 16 characters long, and although it is tempting, don't go through an easy-to-guess cycle (e.g. password1, password2, password3, etc.). You may have heard phrases that compare your password to a toothbrush or underwear - 'don't share it and change it regularly': it's good advice!

Protect it! Set your own security questions so that, should you forget your password or need to change it in a hurry, you can do it yourself. This simple step can save you a lot of trouble later on.

Strong passwords: some examples

There are some tricks you can use to remember them which include substituting numbers for letters (8 for a B, 6 for a G or 5 for an S) or making a password out of the first letters of a phrase, song, book or poem that you know or a combination of the two.

  •  A good idea is to create a password with a memorable date interspersed with a series of unrelated words. For example, if your mother's date of birth is 15th May 1966 you could use that to create '15Tray8book19Dogs66Linux': memorable and hard to crack!
  •  Use a favourite song:

 'I think I'm going to be sad, I think it's today' = iT1g2bsIti2

 'Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you' = h8tuHb2y

  • Use a line from a favourite film: 

 'The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club' = fR0FC:Udt@fc

 'You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off'= Uo$2btbD0

The source of your inspiration is limitless: you can use lines from poems, novels...anything that is memorable to you. 

To help you to help yourself, if you do substitute letters for characters, try and be consistent e.g. an 'S' could be '$' or '8' to help you remember although avoid doing this in common words as hackers can guess and quickly try all possible combinations: if they have a string of seemingly random looking letters they have an infinitely harder job.