“123456”, “password”, “letmein”

For all its benefits, the Internet can be a hassle when it comes to remembering passwords for email, banking, social networking and shopping.

Many people use just a single password across the Web. That’s a bad idea, say online-security experts.

“Having the same password for everything is like having the same key for your house, your car, your gym locker, your office,” says Michael Barrett, chief information-security officer for online-payments service PayPal, a unit of eBay Inc.

To come up with a strong password, some security officials recommend taking a memorable phrase and using the first letter of each word. For example, “to be or not to be, that is the question,” becomes “tbontbtitq.” Others mash an unlikely pair of words together. The longer the password — at least eight characters, experts say — the safer it is.

Once people figure out a phrase for their password, they can make it more complex by replacing letters with special characters or numbers. They can also capitalize, say, the second character of every password for added security. Hence “tbontbtitq” becomes “tB0ntbtitq.”

No matter how good a password is, it is unsafe to use just one. Mr. Barrett recommends following his lead and having strong ones for four different kinds of sites — email, social networks, financial institutions and e-commerce sites — and a fifth for infrequently visited or untrustworthy sites.


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