Internet Security: Top 7 Tips for Creating and Managing Online Passwords

It's the Internet chore that just never seems to get easier.

As we spend more of our lives online, we use more of our brains creating and keeping track of Internet passwords.

We need them to access banks, e-mail accounts, social networks, shopping sites, travel sites, loan programs, mortgage statements... The list goes on and on. And, to be extra safe, we need to have a different password for each online account.

It's enough to give any Internet user a World Wide Web-sized headache.

ABC News asked security experts for their advice on creating and managing online passwords. Check out their tips below:

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1. Be Complicated.

With all the passwords you have to remember, it can be tempting to keep it simple. But experts say short, basic passwords are a cakewalk for hackers.

"The passwords that are the weakest, that are the easiest for hackers or crackers, are short common words, simple, obvious phrases," said Jeff Fox, technology editor for Consumer Reports.

Cyber criminals often use software to help them figure out passwords, he said, and most programs can run through the most common words in the English language in just a minute or two.

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Basic character arrangements, such as "123456" and "abc123," are also definite no-nos, he said.

Even though it means more typing, he said to aim for eight characters or more. The added characters multiply by billions the number of possible passwords criminals have to check.

And the longer it takes hackers to break into your account, the less likely it is that they'll succeed.

Password Checkers Can Help Evaluate Strength

If you want to check the strength of your password, a few online serivces, such as Microsoft's Password Checker and Password Meter are good options.

If you're told that a password is weak, Fox says to strengthen it. He said he recently found that Facebook allows people to use passwords, such as "circus," "victim" and "social," even though it leaves them vulnerable.

2. Try Creative Spellings.

If you have to be complicated, you might as well have some fun with it.

Fox said a way to thwart potential code crackers it to use punctuation marks and other symbols in place of letters.

He suggested choosing words you won't forget, but substituting a "$" for an "S" or a "+" for a "T."

"Obviously, if you use a random set of characters, you can never remember it," he said. "A good thing to do is take a normal word or name and then alter it by putting numbers and punctuation symbols into it somewhere."

For example, if you want to use the word sunshine, use a "1" instead of an "I," he said.

Changes like that are small enough to remember, but significant enough to make life hard for a would-be hacker.

Passwords Can Include Favorite Quotes, Personal Names

3. Make it Personal.

If you're worried about forgetting your growing collection of passwords, experts say you should keep them personal.

"I would use a combination of some personal information backwards," said Avivah Litan, a security analyst for technology research firm Gartner.

Assuming you remember your mother's birthday, she suggested reversing it in the password. A child's name or pet's name are other options.

Litan also said you can use that personal name as the root for a number of online passwords. For example, if your son's name is Daniel, you could use "LIENAD5" for an Amazon account and "LIENAD6" for eBay.

4. Use an Acronym.

Have a favorite phrase or words to live by? Put it to work for you.

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