A good password can mean the difference between identity safety and identity theft. Unfortunately, too many otherwise intelligent people rely on ridiculously weak passwords, the kind that make hackers rub their hands with glee.
If you're not certain about the strength of your password(s), head to Microsoft's password checker. This free tool couldn't be simpler to use: Just type in your password and get an instant strength rating: Weak, Medium, Strong, or Best.
Don't worry: Microsoft isn't secretly collecting passwords for its own eeeeevil purposes. The page doesn't record what you type, it merely generates a response based on the nature of the input.
So, what kinds of passwords can get you a Strong or Best rating? Here's a clue: The dog's name won't cut it. Neither will "1234" or, heavens, "password." According to the password checker, you should aim for a minimum of 14 characters and include a mix of numbers, symbols, and both uppercase and lowercase letters.
Personally, I'm a fan of taking an easy-to-remember phrase (like, say, "PCWorldRules") and replacing various letters with similar-looking numbers. Thus, my password would be "PCW0r1dRu135." According to the checker, that's a good, Strong password.