By Emily Suess

Keeping your small business secure is important, and strong passwords can protect your intellectual property, your financial data, your customers’ sensitive information, and more. To make sure you’re creating a strong password, keep the following tips in mind.

1. Use a separate password for each of your accounts.

It’s a lot easier to remember one password and use that for your desktop, your laptop, your social media accounts, your banking account, and every other password-protected account you have out there. Unfortunately, every time you re-use a password, you are more and more likely to be hacked. Once that password is guessed the first time, it could potentially be used to sign in to each of your other accounts. So use a new password for each account you create, but especially the really important ones like email and online banking.

2. Make a habit of changing your passwords.

Of course it’s important to change your password if you suspect that some has gained access to your account. But you should routinely change your passwords for additional security. For example, what if someone has access to your account and you don’t know it? Changing the password on a regular basis helps keep away hackers you don’t even know have access to your information.

3. Choose complicated passwords.

At this point, you probably don’t need to be told that you shouldn’t use your child’s name or pet’s name as a password. But even seemingly random everyday words can be easily guessed by programs attempting to guess your password. Use a combination of capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to protect your sensitive accounts. And don’t forget that longer passwords are more complicated passwords. The more characters you use, the better.

4. Opt for a passphrase.

Passphrases can be used to create unique, hard-to-guess passwords. For example, you can take a phrase such as “a rat in the house might eat Tom’s ice cream” and turn it into a password by using the first letters of each word: arithmetic. Then replace some of the letters with capital letters, numbers, and symbols: @r!thMet!(.

5. Use two-step verification wherever it’s offered.

Sites like Google give you the option of adding an extra layer of security for your accounts with a two-step verification process. When you enable this feature it requires that you also have access to your mobile phone to get access to your account. Even if someone guesses your password, they still need the verification number sent to your phone to get to your account.

6. Try a password manager.

If you have trouble remembering which password you use for which account, you might want to consider using a password manager. A password manager is an application that stores and organizes encrypted passwords for you. All you need to remember is a single master password and the manager takes care of the rest. If you choose to use one of these applications, make sure you opt for a recommended, reputable password manager.

Passwords are your first line of defensive when keeping your account data safe. Make each one as secure as possible.