I wrote a while ago how to prevent a hacked email account and recommended using a strong password – so I’ll review how to test your password strength.
An easy to guess password like 123456 leaves an email account wide open to attack. However, many other online accounts like Facebook or online shopping accounts can also be hacked if you use a weak password.
What Is A Strong Password?
Generally a password is considered strong if it is long (minimum 8 characters but 12+ is better) and if it has a mix of upper and lower case letters, punctuation, symbols, and numbers.
The greater the variety of characters in your password, the better – use the entire keyboard, not just the letters and characters you use most often.
Note: even if your password does meet all those criteria, it is not really strong if you have used the same password for other email accounts on accounts on other websites…
Never use the same password on more than one website or email account because if just one is hacked then effectively they all are!
Test Your Password Strength
An easy way to test your passwords is to use the Passwordmeter website to check how strong they are – just type in a password and, as you type, the application tests its strength and provides instant visual feedback.
For important passwords like online banking, email, Facebook etc you should aim for a Score that is Green and 100%.
The ‘Complexity’ should be ‘Very Strong’ and (for maximum security) all 7 ‘Additions’ fields should have a Blue star and all 9 ‘Deductions’ fields should have a Green tick.
The fields change as you type, giving a great visual clue as to when you have reached your goal of a very strong password – in the example below I used a 10 character password of 1d*6L^PmTq which passed with flying colors:
Give it a try – and if you have an existing password that scores poorly, use the test to check for a new stronger password so you can change it.
Saving Your Passwords
Strong passwords like 1d*6L^PmTq are obviously very difficult to remember – which is probably why so many people use weak ones…
Of course you could write them all down and type the password into a website every time you logon but I find that the easiest way to work with strong passwords is to use a password manager.
This can remember all your passwords and automatically fill them in for you when you login to a website – for an example see my review of the secure password manager LastPass.
I highly recommend a password manager like LastPass or Roboform if you use Google Chrome or IE because neither browser offers a master password to protect your saved passwords.
Firefox does have a master password option – but do remember to use it.