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When considering password security in general, be sure to consider that the difference between using only lowercase characters with that of adding just one capital letter and one special character to an 8 character passcode would change the processing time for a passcode hacker from 2.4 days to 2.1 centuries.
There are several programs attackers can use to help guess or "crack" passwords, but by choosing good passwords and keeping them confidential, you can make it more difficult for an unauthorized person to access your information.
One of the best ways to protect information or physical property is to ensure that only authorized people have access to it. Verifying that someone is the person they claim to be is the next step, and this authentication process is even more important, and more difficult, in the cyber world. Passwords are the most common means of authentication, but if you don't choose good passwords or keep them confidential, they're almost as ineffective as not having any password at all. Many systems and services have been successfully broken into due to the use of insecure and inadequate passwords, and some viruses and worms have exploited systems by guessing weak passwords.
Most people use passwords that are based on personal information and are easy to remember. However, that also makes it easier for an attacker to guess or "crack" them. Consider a four-digit PIN number. Is yours a combination of the month, day, or year of your birthday? Or the last four digits of your social security number? Or your address or phone number? Think about how easily it is to find this information out about somebody. What about your email password - is it a word that can be found in the dictionary? If so, it may be susceptible to "dictionary" attacks, which attempt to guess passwords based on words in the dictionary.
Although intentionally misspelling a word ("daytt" instead of "date") may offer some protection against dictionary attacks, an even better method is to rely on a series of words and use memory techniques, or mnemonics, to help you remember how to decode it. For example, instead of the password "hoops," use "IlTpbb" for "[I] [l]ike [T]o [p]lay [b]asket[b]all." Using both lowercase and capital letters adds another layer of obscurity. Your best defense, though, is to use a combination of numbers, special characters, and both lowercase and capital letters. Change the same example we used above to "Il!2pBb." and see how much more complicated it has become just by adding numbers and special characters.
A review of tactics to use when choosing a password:
Don't use passwords that are based on personal information that can be easily accessed or guessed
Don't use words that can be found in any dictionary of any language
Use both lowercase and capital letters
Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters
Use different passwords on different systems
Never use the same password repeatedly. Always use unique and secure passcodes. Should an attacker crack that one passcode all other accounts would be compromised.
After choosing a password that's difficult to guess, protect it. Do not write it down and leave it in your desk, next to your computer or posted on your computer. Never tell anyone your password under any circumstances.