Create stronger passwords and passphrases using ASCII characters

A password is a string of characters used to access confidential information, a network, mobile devices or a computer. Passphrases are typically longer than passwords, for added security, and contain multiple words that create a phrase.

Use ASCII characters to create stronger passwords

Passwords and passphrases help prevent unauthorized people from accessing files, programs, and other resources. When you create a password or passphrase, you should make it strong, which means it’s difficult to guess or crack. It’s a good idea to use strong passwords on all user accounts on your computer. If you’re using a workplace network, your network administrator might require you to use a strong password.

Note: In wireless networking, a WiFi Protected Access (WPA) security key supports the use of a passphrase. This passphrase is converted into a key that is used for encryption, which is not visible to you.

What makes a password or passphrase strong?

Use ASCII characters to create stronger passwords

Strong passwords and passphrases contain characters from each of the following four categories:

A password or passphrase might meet all the criteria above and still be weak. For example, Hello2U!, meets all the criteria for a strong password listed above, but is still weak because it contains a complete word. H3ll0 2 U!, is a stronger alternative because it replaces some of the letters in the complete word with numbers and also includes spaces.

Tips for remembering your strong password or passphrase:

1. Create an acronym from an easy-to-remember piece of information. For example, pick a phrase that is meaningful to you, such as my son’s birthday is 12 December, 2004. Using that phrase as your guide, you might use Msbi12/Dec,4 for your password.

2. Substitute numbers, symbols, and misspellings for letters or words in an easy-to-remember phrase. For example, My son’s birthday is 12 December, 2004 could become Mi$un’s Brthd8iz 12124, which would make a good passphrase.

3. Relate your password or passphrase to a favorite hobby or sport. For example, I love to play badminton could become ILuv2PlayB@dm1nt()n.

4. If you feel you must write down your password or passphrase to remember it, make sure you don’t label it as such, and keep it in a safe place.

Creating stronger passwords and passphrases using ASCII characters:

You can also create passwords and pass-phrases that use extended ASCII characters. Using extended ASCII characters helps make your password or pass-phrase more secure by increasing the number of characters you can choose from to make it strong. Before using extended ASCII characters, make sure that passwords and pass-phrases containing them are compatible with the programs that are used by you or your workplace. Be especially cautious about using extended ASCII characters in passwords and pass-phrases if your workplace uses several different operating systems or versions of Windows.

You can find extended ASCII characters in Character Map. Some extended ASCII characters should not be used in passwords and passphrases. Do not use a character if a keystroke is not defined for it in the lower-right corner of the Character Map dialog box.

Windows 7 or Vista passwords can be much longer than the eight characters recommended above. In fact, you can make a password up to 127 characters long. However, if you are on a network that also has computers running Windows 95 or Windows 98, consider using a password that is no longer than 14 characters. If your password is longer than 14 characters, you might not be able to log on to your network from computers running those operating systems.

Sourced from Microsoft.

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Nitin Agarwal is an MVP alumni and a Pro Blogger. He was awarded as Most Valuable Professional for 3 times by Microsoft in Windows Expert - Consumer category. He is immensely inspired by Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and APJ Abdul Kalam.

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