Creating strong but easy to remember unique passwords

This is now an old post with outdated information, you are much better off using a password manager such as Bitwarden

Are you also one who is always forgetting all of the different passwords you use? According to security experts we should use a unique, strong password for every account we have, but trying to remember them all is so difficult you either write them all down or use the same password for all of them.

This of course, makes your password extremely unsafe, if someone finds your list, or if one of the sites where you have an account is hacked your 'secure' user accounts are in jeopardy.

In the past I always used the same password for everything, until about 4 years ago when my PayPal account was hacked into. Luckily PayPal flagged my account activity as suspicious immediately and I lost no money, but it got me thinking about how I could create safe, strong but easy to remember unique passwords for all of my accounts without also having to write them all down.

My solution is very simple, and after using it for four years, I have not had a single account hacked since its implementation. The key to my method is a very strong unique 'Base' password, with a variation per user account.

For example, to create a strong base password I use things from my immediate environment or my past. Write down a number of things you always need to remember or things that have just always been stuck in your head, ie:

  • The first phone number you remembered
  • The registration number of your first or favorite car
  • The postcode of your best friend / first boyfriend/girlfriend

I could go on, but you get the basic idea…

To make the strong password I then take some of these details and make them into something new, here is a fictitious example:

My first car: Mazda Mx5, 1983 model
Its registration number: LX-TR-18
My first dog's name: Dino

Now create a Base password, using combinations of the above details, ie: MxTr1983OnId

To make this more secure you could change the '1' to a '!' and the '8' to an '&': MxTr!9&3OnId

(You could also use a 'Strong Password Generator', but this would be a little more difficult to remember)

Now you have a secure, easy to remember base password for yourself. The next step is to make a unique version of this password for every account you have, there are a number of possible ways to do this, the easiest is to integrate some details of the account name, or website name into your password.

For example, you could decide on integrating the first three letters of the account/website name or maybe the first and last letters into your base password, ie:

PayPal: payMxTr!98&OnId or pMxTr!98&OnIdl
Mastercard: masMxTr!98&OnId or mMxTr!98&OnIdd

As you can see, in the first password it's quite easy to see a pattern, at least easier than the second password. Make sure that your technique isn't too obvious, reversing the letters is one way of making it a little more difficult to decipher.

Of course you can decide on a completely different way of creating unique passwords from your 'strong' base password, it doesn't really matter how you decide to implement it. As long as you apply the same rules to each password you will have a strong, unique and difficult to crack password that is easy to remember.

author: Marc Arden

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