We have all been there before. You’re in a hurry and need to pull an attachment from an email. You log on to a computer and go to your email provider, but the password you put in doesn’t work. You try a few different variations, but still nothing. You try to reset your password out of desperation, and when you create a new one you tell yourself you won’t make the same mistake again and make your password something simple and easy to remember. And if you’re like most people, this is where you make a huge mistake.

Passwords are a pain. It seems like every other site you visit needs one for you to use it and it’s incredibly difficult to remember every single one. And remembering passwords goes from difficult to impossible if you follow security guidelines to stronger passwords. In general, the recommended password is at least 8 characters long, has one special character like ! or @, has uppercase and lowercase letters, and has at least one number.

Go ahead and try to make 15 passwords that follow those guidelines without using any patterns or tricks that relate them. It’s no wonder that in 2016 the top 5 most common passwords were “12345”, “123456789”, “qwerty”, “12345678”, and “111111”. (“Password” was close behind at #8) And 2016 wasn’t just a bad year, these passwords have consistently been the most popular for several years which means people simply do not understand or do not care about the danger they’re putting their information in. Even if people didn’t use one of those, many still use a series of passwords like the names of Simpsons characters or the New England Patriots offensive line that are easy to remember but also easy to hack. And once one password in a password chain has been hacked, it creates a domino effect that ends in multiple accounts being affected.

4 out of the top 10 on the list of most common passwords for 2016 are six characters are shorter, which is like leaving the door unlocked for a hacker. There is password cracking software that can crack passwords of six characters or shorter in seconds, even with uppercase and lowercase or numbers and special symbols. And ever using a sequential password like “123qwe” or “1q2w3e4r” is easy pickings for hackers thanks to dictionary based password crackers that will only be put off by the variation for a few a few seconds. Despite this knowledge being widely available, people continue to use weak passwords. Companies that require passwords to use their services are put in a difficult situation because of it. They could require customers to create passwords that are 15 characters and more, but the amount of frustration long passwords would outweigh the security benefits.

So, are we all doomed to either have weak but easy to remember passwords or strong but impossible to recall passwords? Of course not, this is the 21st century. If you’re ready to get serious about your passwords, you have a few options. The first is using a password manager. Password managers are simple ways to keep your passwords safe, but if you decide to use one make sure your chosen provider is secure and that you choose a password that fits the guidelines mentioned earlier. Another option that service providers are turning to are is two factor authentication, or 2FA. If you’ve used a debit card and pin number, then you’ve used 2FA before. Lastly, if you really want to be secure you can simply write down your unique passwords on a piece of paper. Having strong passwords isn’t nearly as difficult as it seems. Figure out what option fits you best and make the change today.

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