Don’t Panic!

Creating a secure password can be a nervewracking experience.  It seems like every system you log into has different password requirements, and they never tell you what the requirements are until you’ve racked your brain to come up with something and type it in – then you find out you can’t use this or that symbol, or you have to have a capital AND a numeral, or you have to have so many characters.  And you wonder, if I make a long enough password with all those numbers and things, how on earth will I ever remember it?

You’re right – it is complicated, and challenging too.  It’s so frustrating, in fact, that even after all the dire warnings many people still just give up and use a pet’s name, a child’s birthday, or something as simple as Welcome1 or ABC123. You might as well use “hackme” as your password if you go this route.

Don’t give up!  You CAN have secure passwords that you can remember.   Here is your handy guide to creating a memorable, secure password that should work on almost any system.

Take a phrase that you know you’ll remember and use the first letters of each word.  Capitalize one or two letters, and substitute numbers and symbols for some of the others.   Voilà!  Instant secure password.

Here’s a 5 step guide to walk you through it the first few times.  After that, it comes easily!

  1. Come up with a phase that you will remember easily.  It should have somewhere between 8 and 12 words.  For this example I’ll use a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln:  “I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend.”
  2. Take the first letter of each word in this phrase and we have a 10 letter password, all in lowercase, which is a good place to start:  idmewimhmf
  3. Now we need to make at least one capital letter.  In this phrase, “destroy” is a good action word – let’s make that the capital letter.  This gives us:  iDmewimhmf
  4. This is a great foundation for our password, but it’s not secure enough in our world of identity theft and scripted password crackers.  We need to make it more complex by adding numbers.  Let’s do this by converting the vowels to numbers, using standard vowel substitution:

    A = 4
    E = 3
    I = 1
    O = 0 (zero)

    Now we have:  1Dm3w1mhmf

  5. We’re definitely getting there, but there’s one more step to make it really solid: we need to add at least one symbol. Some systems allow all symbols in a password, but others only allow certain symbols in a password.  Symbols that you’re pretty much certain to be okay with are:  @, !, $ and &.  For symbol substitution, you can use this guide.  Most phrases you come up with will have one of these letters or the word “and”:

    A (or 4) = @
    I (or 1) = !
    S = $
    and = &

    Adding one symbol (by changing the first 1) gives us our finished product:  !Dm3w1mhmf

So, in 5 easy steps you have a very solid password that you can remember.  Just say your phrase to yourself as you type in your password and remember your substitutions.  You can even write your phrase down somewhere and not worry that anyone will know it is your password.  And you can choose your own substitutions if you don’t want to use these.

Here are some other examples, so you can really get the feel for the method:

T1w@mfnt3 There once was a man from Nantucket” – Anonymous.  (using each syllable of Nan-Tuck-Et).  On this one I’ve substituted the number 1 for the word “once” because that makes sense to me as I say the phrase in my head and I will remember it.

1ycmgLycmhd@If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” – Marilyn Monroe. Here I’ve skipped the word “a” to keep it to 12 characters.  Some systems won’t allow more than 12.

0b4S$4@w0gOh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.” – Katharine Lee Bates.  This substitutes the number 4 for the word “for”.

There you go – now go forth with confidence and change all your passwords to strong, secure, memorable ones!