Blog Post: Advice from the Computer Center: Create Memorable Passwords

Our world revolves around technology. More and more businesses and services are requiring us to use computers, smartphones and tablets to access our accounts and information. So not only do you need a password to log into your device, you’ll need one that’s unique for each account (and sometimes one that features seven letters, one number, a character, your checking account number, a valid photo I.D., and the promise of your first-born child…. I’m just kidding, but haven’t you felt that way?) I thought that it could be helpful to talk about creating memorable secure passwords.

I remember when I was creating my first passwords. I usually picked a name of someone that I knew or a pet.

*I’ve since learned this is a big no-no. Hackers and spammers can easily find this information out and gain access to your account. Also, the passwords I used were pretty short so that I could remember them easily. But I’ve been told by countless employers and IT professionals, a longer password is harder to break, and a mix of characters makes for a stronger lock.

Highlighted below are a few things that I have been taught about passwords; basic rules that are good for any device or account.

  1. Most passwords need to be at least 8 characters long.
  2. The more characters your password has, the more secure it is (such as a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols).
  3. A password needs to be easily remembered, otherwise you’ll be resetting your password each time you log in. What a headache!

These last two things may seem to contradict each other, but it is possible to create a secure password that you can remember. I’ll give you an example.

When I need a new password, I try to think of a phrase that I will remember. Since I work at the library, I’m going to start out with a book title. I’ll pick “Charlotte’s Web”—it’s a favorite of mine from childhood. Next, I look for symbols and numbers that look like the phrase. This way, I don’t have to remember a bunch of numbers and symbols, I simply remember my phrase. The “[“ symbol could look a little bit like a “C.”  The “@” symbol can look like an “a” and “1” can look like “L.”

So here’s my starting password: Charlotte’s Web

And here’s my finished password with the symbols and numbers added for strength: [h@r1otte5W3b

Note: Please do not use this for your password, it is for demonstration purposes only.

When I sit down to check my email now, I just remember my favorite childhood book and I’m able to remember my password. Can’t remember that it was a childhood book? Most accounts give you a space to write a clue. Type in Favorite Childhood Book, and it should spark an “ah-ha!” moment.

As a reminder: not all special characters are accepted for all passwords (you may not be able to use slashes or dashes), and if you write it down, don’t leave it somewhere everyone can see. And please don’t label it as “My password.”

~ Jennifer Walker