How to choose a strong password

LSE's password policy means that passwords must:

  • be at least 8 characters long
  • contain at least one uppercase letter and at least one lower case letter
  • contain at least one number or punctuation character
  • include only characters supported on campus machines (avoid international characters)
  • not be a dictionary word
  • be less than 12 months old

Each of us remembers different things differently. It is important to pick something that works for you. This guide contains some top tips for choosing a strong password, hopefully one of these methods will work for you.

General principles

Try to pick a password that means a lot to you but nothing to someone else. If you are going to use dates, don't pick your birthday or any date that can be easily guessed or you publish online (e.g. on Facebook). Don't use dictionary words.

Don't share your password with anyone else. If you want to share your email, calendar or files with a colleague, please contact the IT Service Desk| who will show you other ways of doing this.

Tricks and Tips

Here are some examples of strong passwords and how they were created.

This is composed of a date (the year you joined the LSE, perhaps) plus a name you will remember (say that of a pet).

This seemingly 'random' collection of characters is actually taken from the first letters the words making up a well known mnemonic, used to help remember the colours of the rainbow: "Richard of York gave battle in vain". To make the password compliant with the new policy, we've added a capital first letter, a year of birth, and a dollar symbol at the end. To help you remember your passwords better, you can always add the same symbol in the same place to all of your passwords.

Again, this seemingly 'random' set of characters comes from the first four words of Shakespeare's famous quote "To be or not to be…" For extra strength and to ensure the password complies with the new policy, the letter "o" has been transposed for the number zero and a leading underscore has been added. This type of password has a number of advantages: when you need another password you can advance along the quotation, i.e. "Thatisthequestion". You can use the lyrics of a song, a memorable poem, or any text that means something to you.

Transposing numbers for letters is a useful technique. So as well as zero for "o", try "1" for "i", "3" for "e", "4" for A, "6" for "b", and "9" for "g". For example, "Thatisthequestion" could become "That1sthequest10n"

This is a car registration number followed by a memorable year (when you graduated perhaps).

My brother is William and my sister is Kate. They are 1 and 4 years younger than me.

Committing your password to memory

To help you remember your password, it will be helpful if typing it becomes a habit. To get you typing your password a few times each day, try locking your screen when you leave your PC (if your PC allows this).

To lock your Windows PC, hold down the "Windows" key and the letter "L" simultaneously. (<Windows>+L) This will prevent anyone else accessing your PC while you are away from it and require you to retype your password to get back in. Your desktop will be exactly as it was before you left.


Reviewed September 2012