Choosing the right one is tricky: It has to be easy to remember but complex enough to foil crooks. In general, longer is better -- at least eight characters that combine letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and punctuation marks. Don't use real words, since hackers have programs that can automatically enter every one in the dictionary. Reversing, capitalizing, or doubling a piece of easily identifiable personal information may seem clever but it's all too common. Experts suggest stringing together related names or thoughts that are meaningful to you but obscure to anyone else -- for example, pick a childhood pet's name combined with the year you got it, then use numbers to stand in for similar-looking letters and vice versa (such as Garfie1dOl).
Originally published in the May 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine.