How to create a strong passphrase

How to create a strong passphrase

It’s not controversial to state that good, secure passwords are hard to create and even harder to remember.

And there are few things more frustrating than having to create a new password because you forgot the old one or were forced to change it.

In our attempt to make passwords easier to remember, we start adopting bad password habits. Password123 becomes Password456 which leads to Password 789 and so on. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there . . .

Now, security experts are recommending the use of passphrases instead of passwords. A passphrase is just a string of words, exceeding 15 characters, that’s easy for you to remember, but hard for criminals to crack.

I’m going to show you a way to create a passphrase that’s easy to remember but almost impossible to crack. We’re going to use some grammar terms (adjective, noun, and verb), which will help to paint an image in our heads that’ll stick. Don’t worry - I’ll explain as we go and promise there’s no test at the end.

Step 1 – pick a word with 4 letters.

We’ll start easy – this 4-letter word is just the “backbone” for creating the passphrase and make it easier to recall. We’ll call it the “key word”. For my example, I’ll use NEMO as the key word.

Step 2 – pick an adjective that starts with the 1st letter of your key word.

An adjective is a word that describes the characteristics of something – green, old, loud, shiny, are all words that could describe a car, for example.

We’ll use Ninja as the 1st word of the passphrase:

Ninja
E
M
O

Step 3 – pick a noun that starts with the 2nd letter of your key word.

A noun is a person, place, or thing. We’ll go with Elephant.

Ninja
Elephant
M
O

Step 4 – pick a verb that starts with the 3rd letter of your key word.

A verb is an action word – go, read, draw, look. Let’s pick Move.

Ninja
Elephant
Move
O

Step 5 – pick any word that starts with the 4th letter of your key word.

Here, just pick a word that helps to create a memorable image.

Ninja
Elephant
Move
Outside

Can you picture an elephant parent yelling at their elephant kid, dressed up like a ninja and causing a ruckus, to go outside? Very strange, but memorable once you’ve created that image.

NinjaElephantMoveOutside

The key word just helps you remember the letters that begin each word of the passphrase.

Step 6 - extra credit

You can add ore replace some characters with similar-looking numbers or characters to make it just as easy to remember, but even harder to crack:

N1nja3lephantMoveOut$ide

This gives us a 24-character passphrase with 2 numbers and a special character. Best of all, it’s easy to remember.

Here’s another example with HULK as the key word:

Heavy
Unicorn
Leaps
Kinda

Again, you can imagine a rather large unicorn trying to jump and maybe not doing it very well. Odd image, but it sticks. Add some special characters and/or numbers and you’ve got a solid passphrase:

heavyUnic0rnLe@psKinda?

23 characters with a number, 2 special characters, and almost impossible to crack.

For more cybersecurity tips, check out our YouTube channel or keep watching this space where we'll share more ways to protect your environment and help you get more from your technology.  To talk to someone today, give us a call at 586-286-8324 in Metro Detroit, or 616-251-1117 in West Michigan.


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