Accounts: Choosing a Secure Password

Guidelines and suggestions for devising a secure password

Setting a strong password is one of the most basic steps to keeping your computer secure. For tips on how to create a password that is both hard to track and easy to remember, refer to this page or go to DoIT's Password Security.

A CAE password must be at least 8 characters long and include at least one from 3 of the following 4 categories:

  • upper case letter (A-Z)
  • lower case letter (a-z)
  • digit (0-9)
  • a character from the set of   ~`!@#$%^&*()_-+={}[]\|;:'"/?.>,<   and the space key

Passwords will not be accepted if they:

  • are less than 8 characters long
  • match anything in your account information, such as the login name, initials, date of birth, or UW ID number. 
  • are found in the system's spelling dictionary or in a standard dictionary, including proper nouns. Please be aware that CAE uses more than english-language dictionaries.
  • are a combination of less than three dictionary words (three or more consective dictionary words MIGHT pass).
  • have a character repeated three or more times consecutively
  • any password that has one or more illegal characters in it. Illegal characters include control characters (ctrl + __), backspace, tab, delete, and escape.
  • contain 3 or more numbers in a row

To create a good password, it helps to understand what makes a password bad. A bad password is one that is not secure and can be easily guessed by a stranger, a friend, or a computer program. Examples of bad passwords are:

  • Any personal information
  • Dictionary words, including languages other than English, slang, abbreviations, proper names, etc.
  • Dictionary words spelled backwards
  • License plate numbers
  • Dates
  • Numbers

With all of these restrictions, it is still possible to come up with a password that is easy to remember, yet cryptic enough not to be guessable. One of the most popular ways to select a good password that is easily remembered is to take a phrase or quote that you can remember.

How to Make a Good Password:

Choose a short, simple phrase, six to eight words, that means something to you.

I like to eat sweet green peas
If any of the words are homonyms for other letters or symbols, write them with those symbols (e.g. are = r, you = u, too = 2).
I like 2 eat sweet green peas
Make an acronym. Drop all but the first letter of each word.
Capitalize a little, randomly, to keep the password easy to remember.
Add a punctuation mark or two to bring the length to 8 characters.

The passwords for Windows, Unix and Linux operating systems are all the same. Case does matter, so remember what is upper case and what's lower.

To help protect the security of your account, please remember the following:

  • Do not write your password down.
  • Do not tell anyone your password. The administrator of a computer system NEVER needs to know anyone else's password.
  • Do not use the same password elsewhere. If your password is somehow disclosed at another site or ours, it would make it very easy for a hacker to cause damage at multiple sites.
  • Do not keep it in any files.
  • Do not send it via email.

If you have questions or need help, please feel free contact the CAE HelpDesk:

  • Send an e-mail to
  • Call the consultants at 262-5349
  • Go to room 116 CAE (1410 Engineering Drive)

See Also:

Keywords:secure strong password   Doc ID:5873
Owner:Noel K.Group:Computer-Aided Engineering
Created:2007-05-14 18:00 CSTUpdated:2017-06-16 10:28 CST
Sites:Computer-Aided Engineering
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