February 01 is change-your-password tag - tips for a secure password

The first of February is a national "Change Your Password Day" and aims to raise awareness among Internet users of the importance of a secure password and to remind them regularly to change their password. Cybercrime continues to increase. Time and again we hear about hacked customer accounts, identity theft and credit card fraud. Security is a key issue for many users and can be ensured in many places by one thing: a secure password.

Password flood

Easier said than done. A large number of web service providers require users to register and thus create a password-protected customer account. It starts with the email provider and continues through online shopping channels and the creation of a Google account or Apple ID to use the smartphone. The requirement of many services to use combinations of upper and lower case letters and numbers, as well as special characters, does not make remembering the assigned password any easier. So take the easy way and use the same password for all existing accounts? Not a good option. Password managers such as 1Password help with the administration of the different access data. However, a "master password" is also required for these applications - and this should be secure. Simple passwords are unfortunately still widely used. The top 3 most popular passwords among Germans in 2016 are "hallo", "password" and "hallo123". The use of birthdays, initials or other personal data such as the name of the pet or the names of the children are also still widespread. Although these are easy to remember, they are also easy to crack.

To make the password secure

One option that is highly recommended is to use a term and replace some of the letters with similar looking numbers or special characters. For example, the term "word" can become w0rd. However, mug is a very short word. Currently, a password length of at least eight characters is recommended, preferably more.

To solve the problem of length, a whole sentence can be used for password generation instead of one word. The first letters of the individual words form the password. An example: The sentence ?I like my coffee best of all with 2 pieces of sugar and milk? results in the password: ImmKalm2SZuM. Upper and lower case letters are derived from the German grammar, a number is already included in the initial sentence. If one adds now still another special character at the end, as for example an exclamation mark, one has with ImmKalm2SZuM! a strong password that is not so simply to crack is.

In summary, once again a short checklist for password generation.
A secure password should:

  • consist of at least 8 characters, better of 12
  • do not contain successive character or pattern combinations such as 12345678 or qwertz (adjacent keys on the keyboard)
  • contain no personal data such as names, initials or birthdays
  • have a varied mixture of letters, numbers and special characters - the more varied the mixture and the more unusual the special characters, the better
  • and last but not least: A secure password should be changed regularly - not only on the "change-your-password tag"