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Cyber Security – Using Strong Passwords

“Be sure to use a strong password” is advice that we are constantly being given when trying to create online accounts. It’s also not uncommon to see a password meter ranking your passwords strength.1 That’s because many computer users are continually choosing weak passwords like “123456” or “password” ranking top on the list year after year.2 With the rising threat of cyber crime, information leaks and data breaches, a strong password is your first line of defense.

But how do you balance the necessity of highly secure passwords with the utility of easily recalling them all? The only secure password is one that you can’t remember, but there are times when you can’t use a password manager and need to rely on your memory.3 Nobody likes the idea of being hacked and having their information compromised, but nobody likes to continuously overhaul all their favorite passwords on a regular basis either.

2 tips for better password security
Tip #1: Choose a strong password

Cyber criminals can gain access to peoples accounts simply by researching your social networking platforms. That’s because many of us naturally choose a password that personally relates to our lives. Peoples names and place names are the most common source for passwords, so avoid using them. Hackers also have access brute force software, tools that guess thousands of different password combinations in a short period of time.

There are many different methods for creating strong passwords, but the one proposed by Bruce Schneier 4 is probably one the simplest. All you do is take a sentence, phrase, or song and turn it into a password. The sentence can be anything personal and memorable for you. Take the words from the sentence, then abbreviate and combine them in unique ways to form a password. Here are some examples that he provided:

WIw7,mstmsritt… = When I was seven, my sister threw my stuffed rabbit in the toilet.
Wow…doestcst = Wow, does that couch smell terrible.
Ltime@go-inag~faaa! = Long time ago in a galaxy not far away at all.
uTVM,TPw55:utvm,tpwstillsecure = Until this very moment, these passwords were still secure.

Tip #2: Remember your password

This is probably the hardest part when creating a strong password. How do you keep track of the multiple passwords you’ve created for all your website accounts or online services? You’ve created a long unique password (similar to what was outline in tip #1), and you’re not using the same password again 5, so that leaves you with an enormous list of passwords. Fortunately, there are a number of different approaches you can take to solving this conundrum.

Sign up for a password management tool like LastPass or 1Password. There are also countless cell phone applications that could do the trick too. These tools will store all your passwords for you, all you need to remember is a single master password to get access to your stored data. The encrypted data is stored safely (or as safe as you can be online) and is available to you in most instances.

Another strategy you could try is to max out your memory by storing as many possible passwords in your head. Use original ones for important sites like email, Facebook, Twitter, and banks. Use a common (but hard to crack) password for all the less important spots. The risk to this approach of course, is that your less important accounts could be compromised more easily. However, if you’re like me, there are several of your online accounts that will have little to no impact if compromised.

Cyber insurance & identity theft

Even if you have the most sophisticated passwords known to man, there still will always be the looming threat of a cyber threat or identity theft. This should be a concern for your personal life or if you own a business. At HMS insurance we have products available to cover these types of exposures, in most cases the cost is quite small, and simply requires a small endorsement to your home insurance or business insurance policy. Contact one of our brokers if you have more questions.



  1. How Does Your Password Measure Up? The Effect of Strength Meters on Password Creation
  2. Our annual worst passwords list is out
  3. Creating a secure password
  4. Choosing a Secure password – Bruce Schneier
  5. How To Check If Your Account Passwords Have Been Leaked Online and Protect Yourself From Future Leaks