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Technology Basics

How to Change Your Computer Password for the Better

The art to making them uncrackable.

By Amy Spencer
Laptop and papersMark Lund

It may bring a smile to your face to use FluffytheCat as a password, but you won't be smiling when it's been cracked faster than you can type it. Pets' names, car names, last names followed by 1, anything Trekkie, and the word password are particularly vulnerable. "Good passwords are a minimum of eight characters and contain numbers, symbols, or punctuation," says George Shaffer, the creator of Geodsoft.com, a website that offers comprehensive advice on passwords.

To make yours easy to remember, "don't use a pass word―use a pass phrase," says Ralph Echemendia, lead instructor and researcher at the Fort Lauderdale–based Intense School, which trains technology professionals. Then replace some of the vowels with symbols: M@ry h@d@littlel@mb is good; 1'm@p00rm@n is better. Best? Passwords with letters and symbols that require you to use the "alt" key. "As of now," Echemendia says, "those make a password 99 percent uncrackable."

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