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password

When you create a Social Media account, a sign up for a new email address, register for online banking, or create a new account at any website, you are often asked to create a "strong" or "secure" password.

The website might ask you to include capital letters, numbers, and "special characters". It can be hard to think up a complicated password that the website accepts and that you can remember!

But it is possible to make strong passwords that you can remember, and that will help protect you online.

I'll try to answer some questions about passwords. Why do you need a strong password? What is a secure password, anyway? How do you make a secure password? And, how do you remember a password?

Here's some tips and advice for making strong, secure passwords.

Why do you need to use strong passwords?

One very good reason is to prevent someone else guessing your password, and then having access to your account - maybe your email, your Facebook page, or your Amazon shopping account. Imagine what could happen if someone guessed your Internet banking password and then had access to all of your money! But it's not just your bank account that a thief might be after. Finding out the password to your email or your Facebook can let a crook send spam emails or messages to everyone you know. Finding out your online shopping website password could let someone else buy themselves all kinds of expensive things with your credit card.

This is why you should never use your name, or the name of your children, pet, grandchildren, something special that you love, or anything else that it would be easy for someone else to guess or to find out. And don't forget that someone who doesn't know you can still find out this information from your Facebook profile, or other information they can easily find online.

Another reason to use strong passwords, is that there are thousands of criminals and thieves who spend all their time trying to steal or guess passwords. Why? Because they can make a lot of money from these stolen passwords. Just think about someone stealing your Amazon password and ordering expensive goods, or someone stealing your retirement account password and transferring your money to another account. Now think about a gang of criminals gaining access to hundreds or thousands of these accounts and it all adds up to a very profitable criminal enterprise.

Why do you need to use complicated passwords?

All websites store your - and everyone else's - account information in their own big database. They also encrypt, or scramble your password in the hope that if the passwords were stolen, then they would be unreadable to the thieves. Unfortunately, even though you and me couldn't read the encrypted passwords, the thieves can use special programs to try to unencrypt or unscramble each password, one by one. Once they've unscrambled yours, then they know your username and password, and they can use these to access your account.

So, now criminals know that they can turn scrambled passwords into usable ones, many major websites have found that their database of usernames and passwords has been stolen. Adobe http://helpx.adobe.com/x-productkb/policy-pricing/customer-alert.html and LinkedIn http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_LinkedIn_hack are just two companies who had all of their users' emails and passwords stolen. And more companies are have passwords stolen all the time - your bank or the social media site you use could be next.

The stolen, scrambled passwords are put into the unscrambling programs and then the passwords that can be are unscrambled can be used by the thieves to get into your account.

So what does this have to do with complicated passwords?

Well, the way the unscrambling program work means that the thieves can unscramble simple passwords much faster than complicated passwords. Simple passwords are short passwords, and often use things like dictionary words, names, or repeated or sequential characters. So if your password is 123456 or carrots or kaitlyn or qwerty then it can be unscrambled almost instantly. And, the shorter the password, the quicker it is to unscramble.

The longer and more complicated your password, the longer it will take to unscramble. For example, a complicated password like h&sx9(^kEr53 can take months and months to unscramble.

Please go to Part  2

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