In addition to the experts’ tip that a long passphrase — such as a song lyric or movie quote — should be used instead of a password and using only the first letter or letters of each word in the phrase, Mr. Hulbert said he makes his password stronger by translating the result using the Alt key. For example, assuming the site allows passwords with special characters, he might take this line from the film “The Princess Bride” — “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”— and convert it into the 15 character password: “HmNiImYkMfPtDie.” Holding down the Alt key (on a Mac) as you type would make that password: Óµ˜ˆˆµÁ˚Âƒ∏†Îˆ´.
I’ve used the same online password since having to initially come up with something to log on to my “America Online” account sometime in the ’90s, when, if I needed to use the Internet on the family computer, I had to plug into our house’s landline and announce to my family that nobody could make calls for a few minutes while I checked my email (You’ve Got Mail!). The password is long, complicated and coded, because I was the sort of kid who was really into cryptology and writing letters to my friends in coded messages. But I do use an easy, throwaway password for non-financial or social media accounts whenever I have to register for something where it won’t matter so much if I get hacked—like my Pandora account. Oh, you saw that I was listening to One Direction on Spotify? Uh, I was hacked.