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Online password security

Setting up strong passwords and using different passwords for different accounts and devices is the simplest and most effective thing you can do to stay safe when you’re online.

How can I avoid weak passwords?

Weak passwords are made up of common words, numbers or keyboard patterns. Some examples of weak passwords that are used a lot include:

  • password
  • 123456
  • qwerty
  • password1

These passwords are very easy to guess, so if someone is trying to gain access to one of your online accounts, they'll probably try one or all of these.

How can I choose a strong password?

A strong password is difficult for anyone to guess or figure out. When you sign up for an account and choose your password, many websites will tell you how strong your password is. It'll also tell you what your password needs to include, such as different combinations of numbers, letters, and symbols.

Sticking to some of the password tips listed below can help you make sure your password is as strong as possible. Your password:

  • should be at least 8 characters long (preferably 12)
  • should include a combination of upper- and lower-case letters
  • should include some numbers and keyboard symbols such as '&' or '!'
  • shouldn't include personal information, such as your name, any usernames, your date of birth, or any family member's details
  • shouldn't include common words like 'password'.

When creating a strong password, putting three random words together such as 'YellowChairApple' is a good idea. For added security, you could add in some of the options above, like numbers and symbols.

Why should I choose different passwords?

It's important to try and use different passwords for different websites or accounts. If you have the same password for all accounts and a stranger or hacker gets access to your account on one site, they'll be able to log in to all of your accounts. So although it can be tricky to remember lots of different passwords, it's an important part of keeping your online accounts safe. 

It's best not to recycle passwords (for example password2, password3), as these are still very easy to guess if someone gets hold of one of your passwords.

If passwords with numbers and symbols are too hard to remember, using three random words together can make a stronger password, as long as those words don't contain your personal information.

Thinking about writing your passwords down?

Never write down your passwords. If you need a written reminder, try to write hints that only you’ll understand, rather than the actual passwords. 

If you do write anything down, keep that information somewhere safe and away from your computer.

How can I use password managers?

Some internet browsers have built-in password managers. This is software that remembers your passwords for different sites and fills them in for you automatically when you need them.

When you log in to a website for the first time, the password manager will ask if you want it to remember the password. You have the choice if you want it to or not. It can save time to use this function, but it only works on your own computer.

Password managers make it easier to use different strong passwords for each separate account, because it remembers them for you.

However, you should make sure that your computer needs a password or PIN to access it. It's also worth noting that your login details will be available to anyone you share the computer with, so make sure it’s only shared with people you trust – and don’t use the password manager anywhere public, like the library.

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Last updated: Apr 18 2024

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