How safe is my password? Cyber security experts weigh in

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Password managers can help you create secure passwords for every online account you have. (Photo: Getty)
Password managers can help you create secure passwords for every online account you have. (Photo: Getty)

It's easy to assume your go-to password is safe but, unfortunately, cyber security experts say that's not the case for most people. The data also doesn't lie. Security breach statistics suggest that at least 2.5 billion accounts were hacked in 2018. If you're not using a safe password, you could join their ranks.

If you've been using a password like "12345," just know that you're running a serious risk of being hacked. Also keep this in mind: You're not alone in wanting a password you'll easily remember. Mikko Laaksonen, chief executive officer of Responsible Cyber, tells Yahoo Life that it's simply "human nature" to want things to be easy to use and remember. But, he says, this is risky. "What is easy to remember may also be easy to guess," he points out.

One quick and easy solution: Get a password manager. Signing up for a password manager like LastPass Premium can help you create a strong enough password for every online account you have (more on that later).

Here, cyber security experts break down safe passwords and their unsafe counterparts, so you can know where yours falls on the spectrum.

Try LastPass Premium, part of Yahoo Plus Secure, risk-free for 30 days.

Experts say that most people use passwords that are easy for hackers to guess. (Photo: Getty)
Experts say that most people use passwords that are easy for hackers to guess. (Photo: Getty)

So, how safe is my password?

To understand how safe your password is, it's important to go over what makes a bad password in the first place.

For what it's worth, Joseph Steinberg, cybersecurity and emerging technologies advisor, tells Yahoo Life that "many people use terrible passwords without realizing it." Most people know that using something like "password" isn't great, but "people often choose terrible passwords" that still pass filters, he says. Steinberg cites a password like "Abc123!" as an example. This "meets the requirements of many complex password systems, as it is seven characters long and contains a capital letter, a lower case letter, a number, and a special character," Steinberg says. But, as he points out, "such a password is weak and is likely to be guessed rather quickly by most password-cracking-systems that have been trained to mimic typical human password-creation behaviors."

Laaksonen also recommends avoiding "any information that you may have shared publicly or could be disclosed in a normal exchange of information" in your password. So, your dog's name, your kids' names, your partner's name and your address really shouldn't be used if you're sharing this information on social media or if it's part of the public domain.

5 tips for creating a safer password

Steinberg recommends creating a password with a "memorable, strong code." How? Try these tips:

Safer password tip #1: Combine three or more unrelated words and proper nouns, with numbers separating them. Example: “desk3sarah4beach.”

Safer password tip #2: Go for length. "The longer the words, the better," Steinberg says.

Safer password tip #3: Add special characters before each number. Example: “desk!3sarah!4beach.” Using the same character "makes memorization easy," Steinberg says.

Safer password tip #4: Try to use one non-English word or proper name that you're familiar with. But try to find one that other people wouldn't easily guess. Example: "desk!3sarah!4playa."

Safer password tip #5: Add capitalization. "To increase password strength even further without making memorization difficult, consider using a couple capitals that always appear in a particular location throughout all of your strong passwords," Steinberg says. "Just don’t put them at the start of words." Example: "deSK!3sarAH!4plaYA."

Seems like too much for you to remember? That's where a password manager like LastPass Premium can help. "A password manager can be part of the solution to create safe passwords," Laaksonen says. A password manager can help generate safer, stronger passwords and remember them all for you, so logging in is a breeze.

Whatever you choose, just know this: Your current go-to password probably isn't safe.

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