Passwords help guard your online accounts, but they are only as strong as you make them.

So to keep your sensitive accounts secure, it’s time to think about strength in numbers – that means the number of characters in your password and the number of passwords you use.

Sure, passwords like ‘123456’ or a child’s name are easy to remember, but cybercriminals are banking on you using a password that is easy to guess, or contains information that can be linked to you with a little online research, such as an address, favorite sports team, or school name.

And if you use the same password for every account, just think how easy you have made it on crooks who try to hack into your financial, email or other accounts to steal your identity, your money or other important data.

To be safe, here are some tips for creating strong passwords and protecting your accounts:

  • Passwords should be at least 8 characters long, and experts are recommending longer - at least 12 characters. The longer a password is, the harder it is to hack.
  • They should be a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and should also contain numbers and symbols. An example would be iWI$4y0uw3!!.
  • Passwords shouldn’t include your name or common words that can be easily guessed.
  • You should use different passwords for each of your important accounts. For example, don’t use the same password for your email and banking accounts. That way, if one account gets compromised your other accounts will still be safe.

When creating your strong passwords, think of a pattern than you’ll remember and then consider modifying it accordingly based on the account you are signing into.

Try something like building a password by using the first letters of words in a phrase and then logically substituting upper and lowercase letters and numbers and symbols in a pattern you will remember.

If you keep a list of your passwords as a backup in case you forget one, don’t leave it out in the open or in a place that can be easily found.

Cybersecurity is important, and your front line of defense is only as strong as the passwords you create.