Guidelines for Good Passwords

Your password prevents other people from reading your e-mail, accessing your files, changing your web pages, or sending messages from your account. It is against Texas state law to use anyone else's password to access computer equipment.

Computer hackers are people who attempt to gain access to computers which they are not authorized to use. Some have developed sophisticated programs which attempt to discover other people's passwords. Once they have your password, they can use it to access your files or to carry out malicious activity while disguised as you.

While no password is 100% unbreakable, there are steps you can take to make your password so difficult to break that most hackers will give up and move on.

  1. The Trinity University Password Policy requires a password to be at least 8 characters long, contain at least 2 numbers or special characters, not be a word in the dictionary, and not be part of your name or user name.

  2. One hacking tool will go through and attempt to use every word in the dictionary as your password. Do not use any real word (or foreign word) as the basis of your password.

  3. Use some upper case and some lower case letters.

  4. Select a long password. Trinity requires passwords have a minimum length of 8 characters but you may use up to 14 characters (except for Apple Macintosh computers which are limited to 8 characters.)

  5. Use one or more symbols. Almost any character on the keyboard may be used in the password including ! @ $ ^ ( ) _ + = - } { \ ] [ : ' ; > , . / but not a space. On some systems, the * and ? are used as wild-card characters and may not be used. The # and | may present some problems on older systems since they are sometimes used as command separators. Also, the " % & and < should be avoided. Do not use characters which require the Alt or Ctrl keys (such as some foreign characters) since their behavior is affected by the operating system.

  6. Mix in a number or two..

  7. Change your password regularly. Hackers generally do not go back and try a password that has already failed. Make sure the new password has at least half the characters different from the old password.

  8. Tricks the hackers already know include

    1. Using your name (or a family member or pet) backward

    2. Using a phone number, zip code, age, ID Number, birth date, or other personal information

    3. Substituting zero for O, $ for s, % for oo (as in b%k for book), and 8 for B

  9. Use the whole keyboard. Someone looking over your shoulder would have a more difficult time figuring out your password if it involved both hands, especially if it involved the shift key.


These are examples of easily breakable passwords:

Tigers99 - Even though it contains numbers, it is based on a simple word
yraM2-4-79 - Your personal information such as name and birth date are too easy to discover and writing backwards is too common to discourage hackers
ALincoln - Never use your username as a password
dddddd - repeated letters are also a common practice and easy for hackers to break

Below are examples of better passwords. Please do not use these, however, since hackers who read this page may try them.

Lw&M4+3 - Uses upper and lower case, symbols, numbers, and both left and right sides of the keyboard
J7@pZ3Kqs(W - A good mixture and long (Macintosh users: Remember that passwords must be no longer than 8 characters on Macintosh equipment)

One method of selecting a password you can remember

Long, cryptic passwords are often the most secure but can also be difficult to remember. One method of selecting a good password is to start with a short sentence (three to nine words long) you already have memorized. For example, a song lyric:

Oh, say, can you see...

Take the first letter of each word:


Since this is not a word, it is a good start. It also has a mixture of upper and lower case letters. Some characters are typed with the left hand and some with the right so it passes that test. If it doesn't, pick a different sentence. It is five characters long so if you shift the number 5 on the keyboard you get % and the first letter is O (the 15th letter of the alphabet) so take the number 15 and put it all together in an order you can remember. Here are three possibilities:

Oscys%15 or %Oscys15 or Os%15cys