There are many things to consider when dealing with computer security. One that is often overlooked is password strength. Having a secure password is the single most important thing you can do to protect your data.

We use passwords to access email, retrieve voice mail, get cash from an ATM. To make them easier to remember, we often choose passwords that mean something to us, using personal information and common words. Unfortunately, these passwords are easy to guess, and if your passwords are easy to guess, your computer files, personal information and online accounts are at risk.

A couple of simple tools hackers use are the Dictionary Attack and Brute Force Attack. A dictionary attack tries to discover your password by going through a list of known words. This is why you should never use a real word as a password. A Brute Force Attack systematically checks all possible character combinations, so the longer the password, the longer it will take to discover.

If the hacker knows who you are, it’s even easier for them. They’ll find words particular to you. Let’s say you live in “Chatham,” have a son “Michael,” and your dog’s name is “Bone.” A hacker might take these terms and create wordlists from the results. Thus, “ekiMBoneNY” may seem like a fine 10-character password, but it will be cracked in minutes by a hacker who knows you.

To keep your identity safe, it is crucial to have a long, strong, secure password. But even a secure password can be breached if you share it. Your password should be your personal secret. Keep it.

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