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Password Protected

A jumble of words

How many times a day do you enter a password on an electronic device or website?

Probably more often than you realize.

With technology hacking stories frequently in the news, it’s a no-brainer to want to keep our private information secure, yet many people don’t follow recommended IT security practices.

CSULB Psychology Professor Kim-Phuong L. Vu is an expert on human factors—the field of improving product designs and interfaces for easier human use—as well as on human-computer interactions. She is co-author of The Handbook of Human Factors in Web Design, Second Edition, and shared some tips for password safety.

Do’s and don’ts?

Common characteristics of good passwords are ones that are longer than eight characters, do not spell words found in a dictionary, contain an upper case, lower case, digit and special character.

If they’re so complicated, how do I remember them?

There are many types of mnemonic (memory assistance) techniques that have been shown to be effective in terms of memorability. These include using imagery/pictures to relate password components into meaningful items for the person to recall.

What about using common passwords?

Pros—There are only a few passwords to remember.
Cons—If one password is compromised, multiple accounts are compromised.

What’s on the password horizon?

More companies are providing proactive password checking to see if they meet criteria found for good passwords.

Some trends are fingerprint recognition as on the new iPhone, but this method may not be too reliable as cuts on the finger may prevent recognition. Others include password phrases, image passwords, password swipe patterns, etc.

For other guidelines, visit the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team “Choosing and Protecting Passwords” page ( on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website.