How to Choose a Better Password Than Trump

At least he didn’t pick "ivanka1981"

Key Takeaways

  • Always use a password manager to generate strong passwords, and to remember them for you.
  • Your phone may have a built-in password manager. Apple’s is great.
  • Trump’s Twitter password would only have taken 6 hours to crack.
Twitter log in screen when you enter the wrong credentials

Donald Trump’s Twitter password—maga2020!—may or may not have been hacked by a Dutch security researcher this month. Even if it’s a fake, Trump’s password was surely something equally bad.

There’s no way the president would listen to sound password advice when he refuses to listen to any other kind of advice, ever. But if he had decided to ask people who know what they’re talking about, he would have found out three things. One, you should never use a password that uses real words or abbreviations, or that has meaning to you. Second, you should never reuse a password. And third, you should give up trying to remember passwords entirely, and use an app to do it instead.

"Interestingly, Mr. Trump’s password ‘maga2020!’ is not only weak, but would only take 6 hours to crack," Patricia Cerniauskaite of NordPass, a password manager service, told Lifewire via email. "However, as of today, it hasn’t been involved in any data breaches."

Why Do You Need a Good Password?

This may seem like a dumb question, but it may not be obvious just what a password is protecting you from. A password, or passphrase, is not there to stop an individual movie-style hacker from guessing your password and unlocking your computer. It’s there to stop giant networks of automated computers trying to brute-force their way in, by trying every possible combination.

"70% of these most popular passwords can be hacked in less than a second..."

These programs use huge lists of possible passwords, starting off with regular dictionary words, names, often-used passwords like QWERTY and 1234, and more. You might think nobody would be stupid enough to use these, but you’d be massively overestimating the security practices of the regular person. Here are the worst five passwords of last year, according to NordPass:

  1. 12345
  2. 123456
  3. 123456789
  4. test1
  5. password

That’s the top of a list of 200 passwords, compiled from passwords leaked in data breaches in 2019. According to NordPass, the most popular passwords are sports, women’s names, and food. Of 500 million stolen passwords, 830,846 people use "password."

That’s why we avoid dictionary words, and really, anything else that’s easy to remember. Your dog’s name is out, as is the pet name for your partner that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling whenever you type it in. Likewise, you should never reuse a password, however good you think it might be. And that’s where password manager apps come in.

"Most people prefer to use weak passwords rather than strain themselves by trying to remember long, complex ones," writes NordPass’s Ruth Rawlings in a blog post. "Unfortunately, it also means they use the same one for all their accounts. And if one of them ends up in a breach, all other accounts are automatically compromised, too."

Get a Password Manager

Password manager apps all do one basic thing: They generate and remember complex, hard-to-guess passwords, and store them for you. You only have to remember one good password, which is the one that unlocks the app itself. NordPass makes one, and you can also try 1Password, DashLane, or the built-in password manager on your iPhone or iPad.

These apps have lots of other features. They can auto-fill your passwords when needed, and they can store secure notes, software serial numbers, and more. But the main thing you want is the password manager. They make it easy to generate absurdly complex passwords, and you never have to remember them.

Unhappy woman texting on cell phone
JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

"70% of these most popular passwords can be hacked in less than a second, and most of them have been already breached numerous times," says Cerniauskaite.

There’s one more important thing to remember. You have to trust your password manager. That’s why the one built into your phone, iPad, or computer is a good start—the platform vendor already has total access to all your information, so you’re trusting it by default. If you pick a more full-featured app, then you really should do some research beforehand.

Safe and Secure

That’s pretty much it. If you use a good password manager, with a good strong password to lock it, then you’re already way better off than Trump and his supposedly-guessed password.

There are other nice options—you can get a USB key you have to plug into your computer to access your passwords, but the basics are all supported in most password apps.