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News Creating Strong Passwords

Imagine the vulnerability of losing your wallet or purse, knowing that someone could gain access to your identity and financial accounts. The same holds true if criminals steal your online passwords. They could open new accounts and max out your credit limit. Change your mailing address and have items (and bills) sent to them. Withdraw money from your bank accounts. Apply for loans under your name. In many cases, you may not notice these attacks until it is too late.

Think of your passwords as if they were keys to your home and everything you own. Given their importance, it just makes sense to create strong passwords and then take precautions to protect them. Be aware that password-cracking tools continue to improve and the computers used to crack passwords are more powerful. Network passwords that once took weeks to break can now be broken in hours.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to create strong passwords — it just takes a little extra effort. The goal is to make a password appear to be a random string of characters to hackers, but easy for you to remember.

Here’s what to do:

Make it lengthy. Each character added to your password increases the protection. It should be 8 or more characters in length; 14 characters or longer is ideal.

Combine letters, numbers, and symbols. The greater variety of characters that you have in your password, the harder it is to guess. Choose from all the symbols on the keyboard, not just the most common characters.

Use a sentence as the starting point. Think of a memorable sentence, take the first letter of each word, then mix up lower case and upper case, and replace some letters with numbers and symbols.

Avoid sequences or repeated characters. Passwords such as “12345678” or “222222” do not make secure passwords.

Don’t use dictionary words. Criminals use sophisticated tools that can rapidly guess passwords that are based on words in multiple dictionaries, including words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and substitutions.

Have different passwords for different places. Create strong passwords for any online transaction where your credit is at stake, and one “lightweight” password for online access to resources like magazines and newspapers.

Test Your Password Instantly

Once you’ve created a new password, find out just how strong it is by visiting: www.microsoft.com/protect/yourself/password/checker.mspx

Simply type in the password you’re considering, and Microsoft’s Password Checker will instantly rate it from Weak to Best. If yours doesn’t rate well, it’s back to the drawing board. Keep testing new passwords until you find one that rates highly.