One technique that makes it easy to generate a unique but highly secure password is to think of a sentence about a fact about your life. Don’t make it something obvious like “I was born in Canada” — but rather something a little more subtle.
A good example is “The first time I rode an airplane was in 1986.”
This is a fact that you’re not likely to forget, but also isn’t something that easily available to someone trying to hack your account — unlike your birth location, pet’s name, mother’s maiden name or street you grew up on.
Even a close friend or family member may not know or remember this information about you — plus keep in mind that there are potentially millions of semi-obscure facts about you, so anyone trying to figure out your password would also need to know which fact you used.
Now, take your sentence and extract the first letters of each word. For our example, this would be:
That itself is a decent password, but it can be made even more secure by making some of these changes:
- Capitalize a random letter. If remembering which one is too difficult, it’s OK to capitalize the first letter, but another good tip is to capitalize the second letter or last one.
- Change “a” to “@” “e” to “3” “s” to “$” and “I to 1” (and vice-versa). One good rule of thumb is, for example, if you replace one “a” with “@” to always do that. This way you don’t have to remember that some letters have been replaced and some haven’t.
- If your original sentence has the words “first” or “second” (or similar words) replace it with “1st” or “2nd,” etc.
- Remember that the longer your password is, the stronger it generally is, so consider spelling out a word if you need to make it a bit longer.
Using these tips, here’s our new password:
This password is essentially a string of seemingly random letters and numbers and doesn’t contain any full words, meaning it’s very strong. While the “1986” stands out fairly obviously as a year, it’s not a year that’s as obvious as your birth year or anniversary.
If you’re worried you won’t be able to remember something this complicated, you could always use something like the first example or look for some key words and use those instead:
This isn’t nearly as strong as our previous example, but works fairly well since it’s two relatively unrelated words used in combination with a number.
To make this approach a bit more secure, however, you can try replacing some of the characters with the strategies listed above, and even throw in an exclamation point:
For obvious reasons we don’t recommend using any of the example passwords used in this article.