You use passwords every day to access things like your phone, your email, and social networking. But are you really keeping yourself safe? Fortunately, there are simple ways to make passwords both hard-to-guess and easy-to-remember.
Most password-cracking doesn't happen the way it's portrayed in movies, where Our Hero (or The Villain) sits at a keyboard, tries a phrase or two, rubs his chin, then spies a childhood photo on the desk. Aha! Type the magic word and presto, security circumvented. In the real world, the vast majority of password cracking is automated, with computers literally throwing every word in the dictionary (and then some) at a system in hopes of stumbling across the correct term.
So, it turns out a key to a strong password isn't its obscurity but its complexity — things that make it less likely to be guessed by an automated password cracker. However, making a good complex password means knowing a bit about how passwords get broken.
In very general terms, password crackers typically have two approaches. One is to literally try a pre-compiled list of possible passwords. These usually start from very common passwords (like password or qwerty) and work their way down to less common terms, and eventually use a list of words compiled from an online dictionary and other sources. Another password-cracking approach is to try valid sequences of letters, numbers, and symbols, regardless of their meaning.
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