3 Steps to Turn a Terrible Password Into a Great One

3 Steps to Turn a Terrible Password Into a Great One

Taryn Williford
Jan 30, 2012

Our friends over at Gizmodo have arbitrarily decided that February 1st is going to be "Change Your Password Day." In blog solidarity and celebration of this made up (but very constructive) holiday, we're going to show you how to turn your terrible password (admit it, it's terrible) into a great and secure password in just 3 steps.

First, let's talk about the reason "Change Your Password Day" exists. Most people have terrible passwords; passwords that are easy to guess and ridiculously quick for smart bots to hack. And most people use that same terrible password for all of their accounts, which can turn a small security breech into a big one.

But that's not even the worst part. The real issue is most of "these people" (that's you, dear reader) know their passwords are awful, and just decide not to change them. Maybe it's because secure passwords are harder for you to remember, or that you might struggle to stay organized with a different password on each site.

But there's hope! With three small changes, you can turn your bad password into a few really good ones. It's like password rehab.

You just need to start with your terrible password. We're going to use "princess," one of the most popular passwords worldwide.

1. Switch letters to numbers and symbols. Adding numbers or symbols is the easiest way to beef up the security of your password. But be aware that adding "1" to the end isn't going to cut it. It's always better to use numbers in the middle of your password than at the end. If you need some help, use this Leet Speak (L337 $P34|<) converter, which does all the work for you.

BEFORE: princess
AFTER: pr1n(3$$

2. Add the site's info. Remember how it's best to use different login information for each site you use? That doesn't mean you need to commit 8972435 different passwords to memory. Just add a memorable site-specific cue to the beginning or end of your new base password. Keep style consistent; use the same sentance case for each.

BEFORE: pr1n(3$$
AFTER: pr1n(3$$aT (for Apartment Therapy), pr1n(3$$fB (for Facebook), pr1n(3$$dOrA (for Pandora)

3. Add an expiration date. Don't you hate how some sites require you to rest your password every month? It's annoying, sure, but it's also great for your online security. If you need to change your password every month or quarter or year, include a cue in your password, like an expiration date.

BEFORE: pr1n(3$$
AFTER: pr1n(3$$02/12 (for February's password), pr1n(3$$03/12 (for March's password)

Wasn't that easy? Each of the "after" passwords is (rough calculation) a bajillion times more secure than "princess1" and not hard to remember. Try it at home with your own passwords, then tell us your new and improved password in the comments!

(Totally kidding, guys. Please don't do that.)

(Images: Tess Wilson, Mike Tyson)

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