How to choose strong — and memorable — passwords

You might have heard about the Bitcoin investor who forgot his password and had only two more tries to get it right or be locked out of his $220 million account forever.  

Although the stakes are rarely that dramatic, most of us can relate to forgetting usernames and passwords and being forced to create new ones. Unlike with the Bitcoin owner, many passwords are so simple they take only seconds to crack. The top password in 2020 was 123456 and takes less than a second to uncover, according to password manager NordPass.

A password such as vjq3eXr#aPi?gh&rD9o may be hard to decode, but it might be just as difficult to remember. So, how do you create a strong password that's also memorable? Try these six tips:

Make passwords long. Passwords should be at least 12 characters long, and more is better.

Mix random words and symbols. Start with a few common words that are unrelated but easy to remember, such as potato door summer zebra. Then intersperse capital letters, numbers, and symbols among the words, such as Potato&Door4Summer!Zebra2. Similarly, you can choose an obscure but memorable phrase and add symbols, numbers, and uppercase letters to it.

Avoid repetitive characters, such as 444, or adjacent keys on your keyboard, such as qwerty (another common password), says NordPass. And leave out personal details, such as your name or birthdate.

Create a unique password for each account. Once people commit a password to memory, they often use it for more than one account. But that means if hackers figure out that one password, they'll have access to numerous accounts. For the same reason, you shouldn't reuse old passwords for any account.

Use two-factor authentication (2FA) when possible. Accounts with 2FA offer an extra level of security. Once you type in your username and password, you'll be required to provide additional information to verify your identity. For example, you might have to enter a code sent to you via text or email.

Change passwords periodically. NordPass recommends changing passwords every 90 days.

Let a password manager do the work. The average person has 90 or more accounts that require a password, according to software company Digital Guardian. That's a lot of passwords to remember, particularly if you change them every three months as recommended and don't reuse old ones.

A password manager will help you create strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts and securely store them for you. All you have to remember is one master password. Some password managers are free, others charge a fee.

For additional tips on securing your MissionSquare Retirement account, read our Security Guarantee.

Please note: The contents of this publication provided by MissionSquare Retirement is general information regarding your retirement benefits. It is not intended to provide you with or substitute for specific legal, tax, or investment advice. You may want to consult with your legal, tax, or investment advisor to review your own personal situation. Some of the products, services, or funds detailed in this publication may not be available in your plan. This document may contain information obtained from outside sources and it may reference external websites. While we believe this information to be reliable, we cannot guarantee its complete accuracy. In addition, rules and laws can change frequently.

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