Cyber attacks are on the increase. Just this week, dozens of A-list celebrities had accounts hacked, and private pictures of a ‘personal nature’ stolen and plastered across the net. And it was only a few days before that, hackers attacked Sony’s Playstation Network.

True, passwords can be a pain in the butt to remember. But if these events have taught us anything at all, it's that they're a necessary part of today’s digital age. And they need to be secure.

The days of being able to use your daughter’s birthday or mother's maiden name to keep things safe are long gone. Passwords need to be difficult to crack. So we had a little look at how you can create a hard-to-hack combination, and here's how you do it.

The expert opinion

When it comes to password security, Raj Samani from Intel Security has this advice: “Almost every service used online requires a password, and to ensure your passwords are secure they must be complex.

“Each login should be unique, and at least between six to eight characters in length, using lowercase and uppercase letters as well as numbers and symbols.

“If you use one password across multiple sites, you are putting your personal data at risk - if hackers discover your password, they have easy access to your digital life.”

What Not To Do

In the case of the leaked Jennifer Lawrence photos, hackers carried out something known as ‘a brute force attack’ which involves repeatedly trying to log into an account using 100s of popular passwords. So in short, what not to do is use any of the passwords on Splashdata's Worst Password list.

SplashData are providers of a line of password management applications, called SplashID Safe. Every year, in an effort to encourage people to come up with stronger combinations, they release an annual list of the most common passwords which have been stolen and distributed on the Internet.

Their 2014 list is, as of yet, unpublished. However, here's the top 15 from 2013. Creatives should pay particular attention to numbers 10 and 15, and if you see a password you're using in the list below, our advice to you is hit that "Forgot Password" button and change it now.

1) 123456
2) password
3) 12345678
4) qwerty
5) abc123
6) 123456789
7) 111111
8) 1234567
9) iloveyou
10) adobe123
11) 123123
12) admin
13) 1234567890
14) letmein
15) photoshop

How to create a secure password

With everything you've just learned in mind, let’s take a look at four steps you can take to create a password that’ll be a tough nut to crack if a cyber criminal comes snooping around your neck of the woods.

Step 1 - Size matters:

Sorry guys but it’s true, size matters. So the first thing you want to do is make sure your password is more than 8 characters long.

Step 2 - Mix it up a little:

The next golden rule is use a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols. An easy way to do this is to replace letters with characters that look a little similar, like this:

Password becomes P4$$w0rd

It’s also good to use a range of upper and lowercase letters. Basically, when it comes to strong passwords, variety is the spice of not getting hacked.

Step 3 - Word up:

Most people have one-word passwords ... big mistake. There’s software around that’ll run through every word in the dictionary until it finds your password, so you’re gonna want to ‘word up’ and combine steps 1 and 2 to recreate a phrase or sentence that’s more than one word long. Take a look at our examples, they’ll help you get the idea:

“Four score and seven years ago” - 4$c0re&7yr5Ag0

“I started 7th grade at Francis Bacon School in 2004” - Is7g@FBSi2004

“I love to play badminton” - 1Luv2pl4yB@dm1nt()N

Step 4 - Get specific:

The final rule is don’t be tempted to use the same password across all your accounts - no matter how strong you think it is. A little tip to help you here is to try using passwords that are site-specific such as:

“About To Go On Twitter” - Ab0ut260onTw1tt€r

“Spending Money On Amazon” - Sp3nd1n6M0n€yOnAm@2on

“Let’s check Google mail” - /_et5Ch3cI< Go06lem@il

“Password for Facebook Account” - Pwrd4-FB-/\cc0unt

So there you go. Follow the above four steps and coming up with passwords that are hard to crack and easy to remember is a piece of cake. Now you too can create passwords (or to put it another way, N0|/\|u2canCRE8Pw0rd5$) and stop any naughty photos you may have ending up in the hands of a hacker.

This blog post is brought to you by the creators of Solo; your freelance wingman. If you'd like to contribute to the blog, contact us on hello[at]wearethrive.com.