E@4#N or E@4#W? How to Remember Strong Passwords
With so much of your personal data stored on a hard drive or on the Internet, the only way to maintain your privacy securely is by creating tough passwords and changing them regularly. But how do you dredge up e*TY#$98@ from your already overtaxed brain?
You don't need to have a perfect memory. Here are a few ways to come up with passwords no one else will guess, but that you'll be able to recall:
Make the password out of the first letter of a list of several words. The list you use can consist of a sentence or perhaps the names of your children, brothers, or favorite football teams, but you can turn any memorable string of words into a memorable password. Robert A. Heinlein did just that in his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, when he made up the acronym tanstaafl from the first letter of each word in the sentence, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."
Turn words into numbers and special characters. Adding anything from the number row of your keyboard (either the numbers or the shifted special characters) to a password makes it much stronger. For instance, you could turn a memorable pet emergency into the password m3dcac^at ("My three dogs chased a cat up a tree").
Blend the letters of two or more words into one password. Rather than using your mother's name as a password, you could combine the words mom and Ella into the password Emlolma by alternating letters from the two words. Need a new password? Just reverse the letters to make amlolmE.
Use password manager software to keep track of your passwords. The tricks identified above will help people with average memories keep a reasonable number of passwords in their heads. But what if you frequently need to buy a vowel just to remember a coworker's name, or if you have dozens of password-protected accounts?
Even if you have a good memory, it's wise to store your passwords in a password manager, just in case. Because it's scary how many people can foil the other popular password storage technique--Post-it notes stuck on the underside of your desk.