In an ancient folktale, a giant rock blocks the entrance to a cave that’s filled with treasure. A door appears only for those who speak a secret phrase: “Open, sesame!” This is an early example of a password.
Passwords have changed since then. Now they safeguard digital treasures, such as documents, pictures, and messages. But the reason the phrases exist is the same: to keep the wrong people out.
In the digital world, these “wrong people” are called hackers. If they can figure out a person’s password, they can access private information. They can then use that information to commit crimes.
Jessica Covarrubias works at Google. She is the education-program lead. Her team designs games that teach students about Internet security.
Covarrubias says there are passwords to avoid if you want to be safe online. “The most popularly used passwords are password and 123456,” she told TIME for Kids.
Hackers can also find public information, such as a birthday or a pet’s name, about their potential target. They type this information into programs that guess the target’s passwords.
One of the best ways for kids to keep their information secure is by thinking up strong passwords. So how can you invent a password that’s easy for you to remember but hard for someone else to guess?
“Think of a fun phrase,” says Covarrubias. This can be a lyric from a favorite song. It could also be the title of a book or movie. It’s best if the phrase is relevant to your life. You will be less likely to forget it.
Then, says Covarrubias, “take the first letter or first couple of letters from each word in that phrase, and begin switching those letters to symbols or numbers.” Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, too. This makes the password even trickier to crack.