7 rules for picking the perfect password

Rule 1: 12345 and letmein are not passwords. Those are welcome mats. Cute animal motif optional.

Welcome hackers!

Rule 2: Birthdays, anniversaries, and things like that are banners that read “Welcome, friends, family, and all who know me well”. (Translation: “Here, kids, run up my bill on Google Play.”)

Rule 3: A neverending wellspring of inspiration for passwords are your favorite things. (If you began imagining Julie Andrews whirling around and singing while reading that, then it is *entirely* your fault. But I love you anyway.) Don’t pick obvious favorites, like your favorite food or your favorite hobby. Pick favorites that you might not have even thought of, like your favorite day of the week, favorite word, or favorite color, using a word that’s not red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, brown, or pink. Oh, so you had your car colored your favorite color? Well, look up what the manufacturer calls that color, and use that as a password.

(Side tip on picking favorites: don’t pick just any random favorite thing. Yes, you may like the beef sandwiches at your local cafe, but if you only go there because your girlfriend is always dragging you to that place, and it’s the only dish there that you can stomach, it’s not exactly a passionate favorite. Try picking your favorite Jolly Rancher name, or that NPC in your favorite game- you know, the one that you wish they’d let you attack?)


Rule 4: Spice up your password a little. For now, let’s say you’ve decided to go with your favorite word, puffin, as a password. It’s not common, and most people probably wouldn’t know your favorite word, but it feels a little…unsafe, all alone and small like that. Let’s throw some numbers on the end, and make it harder for you to remember- I mean, harder for others to guess. No, no, no- NO BIRTHDAYS OR ANNIVERSARIES! Then how are you to remember? Favorites! String up your favorite numbers in a row, and you’ve added length and a little security to your password. So now your tiny “puffin” password  has become “puffin538611”. (Hmm. I just realized I don’t like the number 8. Might change that on the edit.)

Rule 5: Don’t forget caps on the first letter! It can be a little bit of a pain to remember it all the time, but if you make that standard across all your passwords, then it’s less of an issue, and something most people trying to access your account are likely to forget. You can also randomly capitalize, though that’s harder to remember.

Rule 6: Lazy way to come up with passwords, without reusing them- pick 10 favorite, hard-to-guess words with a minimum length of 6 letters. Pick two sets of favorite 3 to 4 digit numbers. Mix and match.

puffin                                            538                                            611
oleoresin                                      3662                                          418
quilty                                            1976                                           200

(Yes, I like the word “oleoresin”. It’s exotic and weird and keeps the oils I buy from becoming rancid.)

Rule 7: Make a master hard copy list for yourself. Yes, using ink and paper. Crayon will do nicely too. But if you don’t live alone, or are the paranoid type, encrypt it so that only you can understand what’s on it. So “Puffin538611” might look like “⬆Favorite bird/favorite 3 digit number/2nd favorite 3 digit number”. Or you can write out the numbers if you prefer. This may actually be necessary if you chose to go with random capitalization, like “pUfFIn538611”. (Wow. Why is it that looking at that makes me feel like my finger was randomly glued to the SHIFT key? Ouch!)

Okay, who am I kidding? You might still get hacked. But make ’em work for it, okay?

How do you come up with passwords? Leave a message in the comments!