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How to Choose Smart Passwords

We frequently address the subject of passwords, and with good reason: Most users suck at choosing them. That's a problem, because compromised passwords make it a breeze for hackers to steal personal information, access private files, and wreak other kinds of havoc.

Over at the Official Gmail Blog there's a great set of tips on choosing smart passwords. Here's an excerpt:

Problem 3: Using passwords based on personal data We all share information about ourselves with our friends and coworkers. The names of your spouse, children, or pets aren't usually all that secret, so it doesn't make sense to use them as your passwords. You should also stay away from birth dates, phone numbers, or addresses.

Solution 3: Create a password that's hard for others to guess Choose a combination of letters, numbers, or symbols to create a unique password that's unrelated to your personal information. Or, select a random word or phrase, and insert letters and numbers into the beginning, middle, and end to make it extra difficult to guess (such as "sPo0kyh@ll0w3En").

I'm gonna come right out and admit that my passwords aren't as strong as they could be, though I do use several of the methods described in the story.

Maybe you're in the same boat, or maybe you're still using "password" or "yourname123" as your password. Either way, this is worthwhile reading -- and advice worth following.

Do you have a favorite method for creating and/or managing passwords? Share your secrets (if you dare) in the comments.

In the meantime, more great posts about passwords: