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Protecting Data - Building Block #1: Use strong passwords

Computers and mobile devices "out of the box" are inherently insecure. To protect them and the information each device holds, we each need to build a defensive wall made up of a series of "building blocks." One of the most important and easiest building blocks is to protect each device with strong, difficult-to-guess passwords.

  • Don't share your password. Anyone who knows your password can see and do whatever you can, and can share it with someone else.
  • Create a difficult-to-guess password; they are harder to crack:
    • at least 8 characters
    • use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols
    • avoid using a single word, in any language
    • avoid obvious sequences (e.g., 123qwerty, abcd1234)
    • avoid simple alterations of common words (e.g., p@ssw0rd)
    • never use a 'blank', default, or initial value password
    • consider phrase passwords, for example, “I am one happy person at Princeton University!” would be “Im1hp@PU!”
    • do not use example passwords in public documents, including “Im1hp@PU!”
  • Use unique 'username' and password combinations for each of your accounts.
  • Regulary change your password to limit the time a hacker has to discover it.  You can change your password at www.princeton.edu/changepassword, or from the OIT website.
  • Avoid writing passwords down. If you must, mask it: keep the paper in a safe place and don't include related data (e.g., ID, site name).
  • If you use password management software to keep your passwords in an encrypted, password-protected file, be sure to check with your IT support person or the OIT Help Desk at (609) 258-HELP to ensure the product provides appropriate security controls.

If you'd like to read more tips on creating and managing passwords, see "Security 101:  An in-depth look at passwords," on the www.princeton.edu/itsecurity website.  

For this and other 'building blocks' to safe computing, see "Security 101:  The Building Blocks of Safe Computing."

To change your password, go to www.princeton.edu/changepassword, or click the 'Change Your Password' link on the OIT home page.