Protect your online accounts with strong passwords

Protect your online accounts with strong passwords

Learn how to manage passwords for all your accounts

Practically everything you do online needs a password but if you stick with the same one for everything you could simply be handing valuable data over to anyone who guesses it. This is why you need a password strategy. This may mean using password software or generating passwords that are easy to remember but hard to guess or crack.

1. Use a password manager

A password management program helps you remember all your passwords. It also provides tools for generating strong random passwords to use in place of your own easily guessed ones.

The password manager keeps these passwords safely encrypted so that only you can get to them. For this to work, you do need to remember one password: the one that protects your password manager. If anyone guesses this, the game's up, so it’s important that while your ‘master’ password is one you can remember, it’s not easy for others to guess. See tips 8-10 for advice on setting one of these up.

2. KeePass


KeePass stores passwords in an encrypted file on your computer’s hard disk.

KeePass is a free password manager that uses strong encryption . Download and install it. Once launched, choose File > New and provide a master password. Enter it twice to confirm. Choose Edit > Add Entry and provide a title for the service that you're going to use this password with. Add a user name. The program automatically generates a password for you.

3. Setting passwords

Once set up, you’ll need to manually change passwords for each site you log into.

Add a URL (web address) to the entry if needed, and click OK. Browse to this site and log in with any existing account and opt to change the password. If you don't already have an account, you'll need to set one up. Select the entry in KeePass and right-click. Choose Copy password. Return to the website and click the new password field. Right-click and choose Paste. Repeat if necessary to confirm the password.

4. Logging in with KeePass

KeePass makes logging into websites more secure and private.

Once you've used KeePass to generate and reset passwords for all the services that you use, it can help you log in. Save the database file to a safe place on your hard drive. When you next open KeePass, browse to the database file and open it. Provide your master password to unlock it. Now select the service you want to log into. Right-click and choose Open URL. Copy and paste the user name and then the password.

5. Portable KeePass

The download page of the KeePass site provides a portable version of the program. You can put this on a USB stick to carry with you, giving access to your passwords from other PCs. Make sure you also carry a copy of your database file with you too. This will launch on any Windows computer that you plug the USB stick into and launch the program from, but is obviously less secure than keeping the program tied to just one computer.

6. Norton Identity Safe

Norton Internet Security comes with its own built-in password manager.

If you use Norton Internet Security, you already have a password manager, Norton Identity Safe. Norton also provides this for free (get it from here . You need to register with Norton to use it, but then your password database is stored on its own servers. You need to provide a password for your account and a different one for your password vault. It works in a similar way to KeePass, but everything is stored online.

7. LastPass

LastPass stores all your passwords in the cloud for easy access.

One more password manager is LastPass . Again it's free and works in a similar manner to KeePass. You need to set up an account with LastPass and supply a strong password. When you launch your LastPass Vault you're taken to the LastPass site. Log in and then choose Add site to create a new entry. You can then set up the user name and password for the site concerned.

8. Strong passwords

You need to commit at least one strong password to memory. A strong password needs to be long and should contain a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. It should never consist of a word that can be found in the dictionary or a name. Try combining several memorable bits of information like an old number plate, an office phone number and a friend's middle name. Run it all together and use the items to prompt your memory.

9. Rhymes and riddles

Another way to produce a memorable strong password is to select a line from a poem or nursery rhyme that's easily remembered. Take the first letters of each word and replace some with convenient numbers, like ‘O’s with zeroes and so on. Run the lot together and then you just need to remember the rhyme. For example the first two lines of the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill might become ‘Jajwut42fap0w’.

10. Long phrases

Words are easily guessed but phrases that run together are much more difficult. Take for example “my schoolboy crush was Lisa”. That's easy to remember if it were the case and equally hard for someone else to guess. The phrase itself is hard to crack, but you might like to add numbers by replacing letters as above or tack on something like the price of chips in the canteen at work. Thus you end up with ‘myschoolboycrushwasLisa£125’.