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In light of the recent security breaches of huge websites such as Gawker, Sony and Nintendo I am concerned about an issue that affects us all: Is my password secure?

Are your passwords secure?

In cases where security has been breached and your password has been extracted from a database, the answer is no, your password is not secure any more.

Since the attacks, a number of sites have popped up, which help people to find out whether their password has been breached or not. This should help you make an informed decision as to whether you need to change your passwords or not.

Security breaches aside, to answer the question, you need a way to measure security.

Take the password strength grower Naked Password (Safe for Work), it has a tiny pixelated woman, which tastefully removes her clothing as type your password. This works by providing a point for each level of security, there are 5 levels:

  1. if password bigger than 5 give 1 point
  2. if password has both lower and uppercase characters give 1 point
  3. if password has at least one number and at least 1 other character give 1 point
  4. if password has a combination of other characters and special characters give 1 point
  5. if password bigger than 12 give another 1 point

Each “point” means that Sally removes another piece of clothing.

Meanwhile Microsoft takes a similar, approach with 6 levels to creating a strong password:

  1. Start with a sentence or two (about 10 words total).
    • Think of something meaningful to you.
    • eg: Long and complex passwords are safest.
  2. Turn your sentences into a row of letters.
    1. Use the first letter of each word.
    2. eg: lacpasikms (10 characters)
  3. Add complexity.
    • Make only the letters in the first half of the alphabet uppercase.
    • eg:lACpAsIKMs (10 characters)
  4. Add length with numbers.
    • Put two numbers that are meaningful to you between the two sentences.
    • eg:lACpAs56IKMs (12 characters)
  5. Add length with punctuation.
    • Put a punctuation mark at the beginning.
    • eg:?lACpAs56IKMs (13 characters)
  6. Add length with symbols.
    • Put a symbol at the end.
    • eg:?lACpAs56IKMs” (14 characters)

You can even check your password with Microsoft to see if your password is strong enough for them.