Many Internet sites require a username and password, and the stronger they are, the safer your personal information will be. Usernames and passwords are required to log into e-mail accounts, social networking pages, any secure website and many other locations.

For example, a person must sign in with a username and password to upload family photos to an online printing service. There may be millions of pictures uploaded to printing services every day, and each of them are tagged with the customer’s username and password. This ensures that only the person with the correct username and password has access to those images.

Usernames are not considered private information; they are usually displayed to others when you send an e-mail or post something to social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter. Usernames should give the reader an accurate description of who you are or what you represent.

Often, e-mail usernames that are outlandish or contain special characters (such as Chinese letters) will be caught by spam filters. Spam filters scour incoming messages for certain keywords or phrases and then move those messages to the junk folder or trash.

A good username might include a first or last name and a special character, such as a period to separate the names (, an underscore or numbers.

If creating a username is too difficult, consider using a username generator. Examples of username generators are,

Creating and protecting the best passwords are crucial to maintaining online security. As a general rule, users need at least five different usernames and passwords. Although difficult to remember, maintaining separate usernames and passwords for major accounts is preferable to having others steal information.

One username/password combination should be used only for online banking transactions. Never share a banking username/password with another type of account, such as Facebook, photo websites or couponing sites. Use the other four username/password combinations for a work-related account, a personal e-mail account, social media account and an account for excess messages.

Multiple usernames and passwords help protect other accounts if one is compromised as a result of phishing. A phishing e-mail is a special type of e-mail hackers send out to unsuspecting users. It looks like a legitimate e-mail from the company but asks you to reply to the message and provide personal information.

If a user accidentally responds to a phishing e-mail in one account, then other accounts could be at risk if they have the same username/password. Hackers could then have all the information necessary to access sites such as online banking.

Creating a strong password is easy to do. The best way to create a password is to think of events, places or people that hold a special meaning. For example, take three school milestones: kindergarten, high school and college. Now, take the dates you completed each and the initials of the institution to create a password (ex. SA98SHS10MSU14). If the password is reversed, it becomes MSU14SHS10SA98, which is easy to remember but counts as a second password that is different from the first.

Another way to create passwords is to think of a favorite phrase or motto and use the first letter of each word. For example, the preamble to the Constitution becomes WtPotUSA1787. Passwords should be eight to 14 characters and should not include the username or other well-known information such as a telephone number, address or birthday.

Creating unique usernames and passwords helps maintain online security and makes it more difficult for others to steal information.