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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Passwords are at the center of our digital lives. They are the keys that protect our most sensitive and valuable files and accounts. It is important to understand what makes a good password and use best practices to limit your risk of compromise.

What makes a good password?

  • Make passwords long. 12-14+ characters long or longer is suggested.
  • Make passwords complex. Use uppercase, lowercase, special characters, and numbers.
  • Make passwords non-personal. Avoid using things like your name, birthday, current year, current season, address, phone number, pet’s name, or other information that may be on social networking profiles, public records, or otherwise easily found or guessed.
  • Use different passwords for each account. Using the same password for multiple different accounts will make it easy for an attacker to compromise all of your accounts.
  • Avoid using words found in a dictionary. Instead of people guessing passwords, now computers are guessing passwords. For this reason, if your password is made up of words found in a dictionary,  it is very easy for a computer to guess it and gain access to your account.
  • Change passwords often. It is important to not reuse passwords and change your passwords on a regular basis.

Creating strong passwords

  • Sentences/Passphrases
    • Using lyrics from a song or lines from a movie are great for creating strong passwords
    • Example: "Luke,IamYourFather5#!"
  • First letter of each word in a sentence
    • Pick out a sentence or two that you can easily remember and use the first letter in each word to create a strong password that looks random to everybody except you.
    • Example: "My name is Max. I attend school at Minnesota State University, Mankato." turns into MniM.IasaMSU,M.
  • Combine random words
    • Using a combination of words that have no relation to you works great for passwords
    • Example: UniformCloudAngleScorpion%842%

For more tips on what makes a good password, see Microsoft’s Safety & Security Center page: