Your online passwords are a line of defense against hackers looking to gain sensitive information from your accounts. These passwords are the guardians of all of your valued banking information, your social media accounts and, if you’re a celebrity, naughty bit photos you sent to your flavor of the week.

You certainly don’t want anyone getting ahold of these valuable accounts, so it’s important you come up with a password that is virtually unbreakable. We’ve outlined some tips on what to do to create a strong password and what to avoid doing at all costs.

Do avoid being basic.
Would you believe one of the most common passwords used in 2014 was simply “password,” edged out only slightly by the classic “123456.” I suppose that’s a good one for people who don’t know how to spell or count, but that still leaves you vulnerable to most people who aren’t in kindergarten.

You’ll have to amp up your game if you want to fool anyone. Repetitive or sequential numbers and letters are some of the easiest passwords to hack. The same goes for generic words and commonly used phrases. “Carpe Diem” might make for a great life motto, but if you use it for a password, hackers are going to be seizing your credit card number and your financial assets.

Don’t use names of your family or pets.
It’s great you love your dog “Buttons,” but showing your love by using his name to protect your email isn’t the wisest decision. Sometimes hackers are people from your own life, so using the name of something or someone important to you would be an easy guess. Avoid names altogether when coming up with your password.

Do use a passphrase.
The average time it takes for a hacker to crack a 10-letter password is one week. Instead, try using a passphrase like many sites are now requiring. Longer phrases make it more difficult and time-consuming for someone to break in. The more convoluted and meaningless your passphrase is, the better. Passwords less than ten characters long are considered weak and among the easiest to guess, whereas ones 15 characters or longer are generally more secure.

Don’t use dictionary words.
Dictionaries are wonderful things full of words most people have never heard of. It’s easy to open one up and choose a random, confusing word you think no one would guess. The problem is everyone else has access to a dictionary and can use the same method to guess your password you used to create it. In fact, most password cracking tools are already equipped with knowledge of most of the words found in the dictionary.

Do mix it up.
Add some random numbers and characters in your password to make it harder to tugess. If you feel inclined to place them in the middle of a word, like “ka3th&en46o*th$eis94m,” even better. Good luck guessing that one, hackers. You might want to write it down and store it in a secure place if you choose to go that route.

Don’t be redundant.
Repetition reduces the amount of times a hacker has to spend guessing your password. The less you repeat a number or letter the better. For example, “5001” or “voodoo” aren’t all that difficult to guess for even the novice hacker.

Other Thoughts to Keep in Mind

If you don’t trust yourself to remember your password, there are plenty of apps available to help you out. Most of these apps act as vaults for you to store them in. You can even use a password generator, but it’s probably best to come up with something unique on your own.

Remember to change your password every few months. The longer you use the same one, the more time you’re giving a hacker to figure it out. Many sites are starting to require you change your password every few months.

Your password is often the only thing keeping most of your online information out of the hands of online thieves. You should always put extra effort into creating something strong enough to keep any unwanted users out. Keep these tips in mind when creating your next password and you should be a little more secure online.

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