A recent ZoneAlarm survey revealed that 79 percent of consumers use risky password construction practices, such as including personal information and words.The survey also revealed that 26 percent of respondents reuse the same password for important accounts such as e-mail, banking or shopping and social networking sites.In addition, nearly 8 percent admit to copying an entire password found online in a listing of “good” passwords.Given these numbers, it’s no wonder that 29 percent of respondents had their own e-mail or social network account hacked, and that over half (52 percent) know someone who has had a similar problem.The first step a hacker will take when attempting to break into a computer or secure account is try to guess the victim’s password.Automated programs are available to repeatedly guess passwords from a database of common words and other information.Once a hacker gains access to one account, almost 30 percent of the time that information can be used to access other sites that contain financial data such as bank account numbers and credit card information. To ensure you stay safe online, here are a few tips for creating a strong password.Use Unique Passwords For Each AccountChoose different and unique passwords for each account.Passwords Should Be Eight To Ten Characters LongChoose a password that is at least eight to 10 characters long. This should be long enough to prevent brute force attacks, which consist of trying every possible combination of a password until the right one is found.Avoid Using Personal InformationMake sure your password is difficult for someone to guess. Do not use names of any kind, including your login name, family member’s name or a pet’s name. Also avoid using personal information such as a phone number, birthday or place of birth.Avoid Words In The DictionaryAvoid words that can be found in the dictionary. With the availability of online dictionaries, it is easy for someone to write a program to test all of the words until they find the right one.Avoid Repeating Characters Or SequencesStay away from repeated characters or easy to guess sequences. For example: 77777, 12345, or abcde.Use Numbers, Letters And Special CharactersChoose a password that is a mixture of numbers, letters and special characters. The more complex and random it is, the harder it will be to crack.Use Word FragmentsUse fragments of words that will not be found in a dictionary. Break the word in half and put a special character in the middle.Frequently Change Your PasswordsChange your passwords often. Even if someone cracks the system password file, the password they obtain is not likely to last long.Cyber crime is on the rise. Taking the time to actively choose secure passwords will protect your identity, banking information and personal information. And remember, writing your password on a sticky note on your monitor isn’t secure!