If you’ve tried to setup an online account for just about anything recently, you’ll notice that they all ask for complex passwords. And it can be REALLY annoying if you’re someone who just wants to set up this one off account to buy something that you’re not that bothered about.

So why do you actually need a complex password? Are these guys just getting worked up about nothing?

Actually there is a reason you need to start using more complex passwords – and once you know why you’ll definitely start using them more.

The average password

Here’s a stat for you. Around 84% of all internet users use the same password for most of their online accounts.

On top of that, around 60% of users (in the US at least) use very simple passwords such as their name, date of birth or standard words such as ‘password’ or ‘qwerty’.

Yup – people do still use the word password for their passwords.

In fact, the most common passwords are:

  • password
  • 1234
  • iloveyou
  • football
  • abc123
  • 111111

But you don’t use any of those do you? Do you?

Why simple passwords are not a good idea

Gaining access to our online accounts is childs play for hackers. They have a whole universe of tools that can crack thousands of passwords in seconds… Yup.

The common form of password cracking software carries out what is called a ‘dictionary attack’. This is where the software will try all the simple passwords including standard words from the dictionary in an attempt to crack the password.

And how long does it take to do that?

Less than one second.

So if you use the password, ‘password’, your account can be cracked literally instantly – if someone decides to try.

So why would they try?

Let’s say they (Mr A.N Hacker) gets into a poorly secured website that you forgot you had an account on. In there, they can see that you have a login with a really simple password.

They can then just go around to other websites (automatically, they don’t sit there clicking around like when you’re doing online shopping) and access your accounts. They might then have access to your:

  • personal details
  • payment information
  • medical records
  • purchase history
  • other sensitive information that you might not want to reveal publicly

You don’t use the same password for a dating app, your bank accounts and shopping accounts, no? Good.

What is a complex password?

These days, a complex password is considered to be:

  • 8 characters or more long
  • Include a mixture of upper and lower case letters
  • Also include at least one number
  • Ideally include a character
  • NOT be an obviously recognisable word

So if you use the word football, that just about hits the word limit. But you should mix it up – perhaps like this:

  • F00tb@ll
  • f0otBa!!

The best way to keep your accounts secure is also to not share passwords between accounts. So this does mean you can end up with an absolute shitload of passwords – which can be a hassle.

Can I just save passwords on my browser?

Your browser lets you save your logins, both on mobile and desktop. But then your browser is only as secure as your device.

Your laptop login should also be secure – that means a complex password. And you should use data encryption, so that if anyone tries to access your laptop without the password, your data (including saved passwords) is not visible.

In theory, yes you can save your passwords on your browser. Apps like Chrome, Firefox and Opera do save your passwords so you can login and check them or edit them later.

There are other ways to save your complex passwords though.

Password apps

There is a growing amount of software designed to manage your complex passwords – some of which is paid, some of which has free functionality.

DropBox for example offers support for up to 50 passwords for free. There are also apps like LastPass and DashLane.

You’ll be looking at around $50-70 for a years premium subscription, or use the free version for your secure apps like bank accounts.

Whatever you do, just don’t use ‘password’ as your password!