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One Step Ahead: Privacy and Security Tips
October 3, 2006, Volume 53, No. 6

One Step Ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

Create Strong, “Uncrackable” Passwords to Foil Hackers

You may not realize it, but the number one reason computers get hacked is weak passwords. To protect against hackers, who use automated password-cracking dictionaries to gain access to online accounts and individual computers, be sure to use strong, hard-to-guess passwords with the following characteristics:

• Are at least 8 characters long

• Contain no words found in English or foreign language dictionaries

• Contain no words found in specialized dictionaries, including those used by hackers, which include names, proper nouns, and popular words from non-standard sources such a music, movies, and video games

• Contain a mixture of at least three of the following: uppercase and lower case letters, digits (0-9), and special characters (%*!, etc.)

• Contain no personal information such as your birth date.

To create a strong password, think of a phrase that has meaning only to you; for example, “My son Charlie Jones goes to school in Bryn Mawr, PA.” Take the first letter from each word to create a password that is nearly uncrackable yet not hard to remember: “MsCJgtsiBMPA.” To make it even tougher to crack, use digits and special characters: “MsCJg2siBM,PA.” If you find it necessary to write down your password, don't leave it in an accessible spot or share it with anyone.


For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.


Almanac - October 3, 2006, Volume 53, No. 6