Why You Should Make Your Passwords Harder To Crack

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A posted list of frequently used passwords revealed by the Gawker Media hack as determined by the Wall Street Journal reveals that 123456 is the most popular. Seriously, users couldn’t come up with something more creative than that? Second runner-up was password, followed by 12345678, which brings up the scary point that most of us don’t put much thought into protecting our accounts at all. (Props to the X-Philes who used TrustNo1, Mulder’s password.)

But it turns out it’s not just Gawker Media users who are sloppy. Just this past August, a survey completed by Bit Defender showed that 75 percent of people had the same password for their email and social networking sites, according to PC World. Even worse, finding the email or user name attached to people accounts was simple especially because 87 percent of emails revealed online through blogs, random social network postings or the like. We’re not getting any smarter: A survey by Webroot revealed that four out of 10 people have shared their password with someone and 30 percent of them logged into a site with their own password over public WiFi.

So, in the spirit of protecting your password (and your entire life) follow these tips:

1. Put in some random characters (ex.@,#,$,%,^) to make your password more complex because it makes it so much harder for hackers to guess, like this Microsoft Online Safety Guide suggests.

2. The longer your password, the harder it is to guess. A lot of websites suggest that you make it at least six characters long when you first create your password.

3. Deliberately misspelling a word can make it so much harder to crack, according to Stanford University ITS.

4. Don’t use names or numbers that have a big significance to you, such as your birthdate or your anniversary, Wolfram says.

5. Don’t make your username a version of your password. You’d be surprised how many people do this.

6. Try not to use the same password for all your accounts that way if someone finds one of your passwords, they haven’t hit the motherlode.

7. No matter what: DO NOT SHARE YOUR PASSWORD. (Or, if you’re like me and share your Netflix and Xbox Live account with a few people, my friends and I have a designated share password that is different from everything else we use. That way we never forget – and we don’t reveal personal information)

8. Change your password regularly, mentions About.com. A good rule of thumb would be to change it as often as you change your toothbrush, which is supposed to be every three months.

More on TIME.com:

How to Check If Your Gawker Password Has Been Stolen

Most Memorable Hacking Moments

IronClad: A Tiny, Secure Computer in Your Pocket

Sarah Palin E-Mail Hacker Sentenced To One Year In Custody

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