For many users, a single password is the only line of defense between their personal information and the outside world, so it is imperative that this defense doesn’t fail. Take it first hand from IdentityHawk, “Since passwords grant access to bank and credit card accounts and a variety of other aspects of people’s lives, the stakes are very high. It’s each person’s responsibility to use a new password for every login and to make sure that each is complex and unique.” So, what makes a complex and unique password?

Each service that requires a login has different requirements for passwords, but amongst computer security experts, there are some commonly agreed upon norms for what makes a secure password. When creating a password for yourself, make sure that it has a minimum of 8 characters. You should use at lease one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, one number (0-9), and one symbol (!, @, #, $, %, ^, etc.). But even when all of these criteria are met, passwords can still be compromised due to simplicity, so it is important to avoid a few common mistakes when creating a password. Be sure to avoid the following: character repetition, keyboard patterns (like qwerty or 12345), dictionary words (even if they aren’t in an English Dictionary), letter or number sequences, relative/family member’s names, pet names, and personal information.

As previously mentioned, it is important that passwords are unique for each service or software, so be sure to change your passwords so they are each unique and meet the security criteria above. Imagine that your passwords are not unique and you use the same password for your computer, email, and bank account. If your email account becomes compromised, a hacker now as access to all of your files, and bank information. In addition to your passwords being unique, it is important to frequently change your passwords, so that they always meet the constantly evolving security standards. We recommend that you change your password every six months. If you don’t know how to change your password, follow this easy process:

It can be confusing to remember all of your unique and constantly changing passwords. If you have this problem, we recommend using a password management service, like LastPass, Keeper, or Password Boss. These services offer free password management and strong password generation, and for a small fee they each offer premium services—just make sure your password is strong!