5 Creative Ways to Generate Secure Online Passwords

By Neha Singh Gohil | Updated: 23 Dec, 2013

We all know that passwords are far from the perfect solution to online security. Most people reuse the same ones all over the internet, and others use ones that are easy to guess with a minimal amount of personal information about them. There are plenty of single-sign-on options out there, but they fall short for lesser known, niche sites that comprise much of our browsing experience (e.g. your local community theater). This ends up forcing you to create credentials for every purchase or sometimes even just virtual window shopping.

So what’s a conscientious internet user to do? You can’t live without passwords, but it’ll be impossible to remember random number strings for each site.

Nostalgic Passwords

The following are a few fun ways to generate unique passwords that are a bit trickier to crack than “1234.” They’re based largely on the premise that passwords shouldn’t contain anything that can be found in your wallet or in your emails (in case you’re the victim of a daisy chain hack.)

  1. Pick a favorite phrase, song lyric or movie name, and use the first letters of each word in the phrase as your password. For passwords that require numbers, you can change the 1st and 3rd letter of the phrase-based word to its corresponding number in the alphabet. e.g. Bridge Over Troubled Waters = BOTW = B15T23

  2. Use the name of the maker of your first car and the model number of your current car. e.g. VolvoA6, Towncar150

  3. Use the last part of your childhood phone number combined with your childhood street name. The phone number part of this (usually a 4 digit numeric string) is great for ATM pin codes as well. e.g. Main5347, 1280Grove

  4. Use the name of a place you’ve travelled to (city, country or specific site) and the year you went there. Bonus points for picking the name of a place in a foreign language. This method is especially helpful for passwords that need to be changed often, since you can always pick a recent place you’ve visited. e.g. Dixie2009, SiemReap12, Napa88

  5. Pick your favorite whatever (sports team, cereal, model train, Iphone app, designer, etc.) and replace the As with @ and the Es with 3s. e.g. Granola = Gr@nol@, Emerald = 3m3r@ld

Why They Work

So will these systems make your password unhackable? Probably not if the hacker is your best friend from grade school or is privy to your entire life story on Facebook. They will likely be much more successful at keeping out the hackbots or the hackers who use lists of personal data to hack online systems. Either way, they’re far more effective than using your birthday or “password” to keep your information secure.

And they have the added benefit of making sure you’ll remember your passwords by making them unique to yourself. Why? Because there are certain things you’ll never forget - like giving your dorm room phone number to that one guy or your first road trip or that amazing meal you had in Santorini – that aren’t necessarily written down anywhere. These memories are a great source of intangible inspiration for your online password strategy.

The best part is that you’ll end up always taking a minute out of your busy day to remember something you enjoyed, even if it is as you’re logging in to check your bank statements!