As an IT services firm, we naturally feel a personal responsibility to advocate the importance of secure passwords. Our IT Tip of the Month in February focused on easy to use and access Password Protection applications. (Feel free to review that article here.) This month presents us with yet another opportunity to touch on the subject with the approach of National Password Day on May 5th.

Passwords are close to the Guidant heart for several reasons. One, our work centers on efficiency, and the most efficient security system you can put in place to secure your valuable information is a good password. It’s free, simple, and takes little to no time to implement.

Two, we like a job well done. When our clients have strong password practices it makes our jobs easier, which in turn makes our client’s technology experience better. We can deliver better service when our clients meet us halfway.

Three, we know from several personal experiences the financial, emotional, and organizational stress a cyber attack puts on both the individual who has been hacked and the business as a whole. It’s a helpless feeling of violation that no one expects to experience, but so many of us do.

The purpose of National Password Day is to help bring awareness to simple and easy best practices you can implement to protect yourself, your business and your future. Sponsored by Microsoft, the National Cyber Security Counsel, Dell, and several other leaders in technology, the day even has its own website promoting good practices, humorous but relevant videos and illustrations, and even a password strength-tester.

Here are four simple best practices suggested by National Password Day partners that you can implement right now to improve your overall password protection. You can read more about these and watch a demonstration on the National Password Day website.

1) Add words: Refrain from using single-word passwords. Adding words adds complexity.

Don’t do this: baseball
Do this: ilovebaseball

2) Use Random Capitals: Don’t be predictable in your capitals game, i.e. don’t just capitalize the first letter of your password. Add random capitalization to improve difficulty.

Don’t do this: Ilovebaseball
Do this: iLovebaseBall

3) Use numbers to replace letters: Don’t just tag numbers at the end of your password. Implement them throughout. Try replacing E with 3, or S with 5. You can get fairly creative here.

Don’t do this: baseball
Do this: iLov3bas3ba11

4) Replace common words with synonyms: Try replacing words you use often with words that are less frequent. Instead of saying “Dog” try “Fido” or replace a person’s name with their middle name.

Don’t do this: ilovebaseball
Do this: iH3artbas3ba11

With all this tips implemented, instead of “baseball” (which is practically begging to be hacked) we have “iH3artbas3Ba11”.

Getting too complicated? Good. That’s exactly what we want. And if you are saying to yourself, “How will I ever remember that?” then its time to review our article on Password Keeper Applications, which can not only help you remember your passwords, but can also help you generate them.

Don’t let May 5th slip by without implementing at least a few of these very simple best practices. Unfortunately, as much as we want to pretend cyber attacks will never happen to us, each new day is proving us wrong. Keep yourself from being a case study for the FBI and protect yourself with efficient and effective improvements to your password practices.