The Internet can be a dangerous place.
While you're enjoying the convenience of online shopping, Internet banking and subscription websites, nasty people lurk around every corner.
Hackers, fraudsters, identity thieves and many others would love to get hold of your personal details.
And what stands between you and a security disaster?
Just 8 little characters long, it's your last line of defense online. Here are 10 tips for choosing and using bullet-proof passwords that will protect you from harm:
Tip 1 - Avoid the obvious
Passwords based on personal details are too easy to guess. Avoid using names, places, favorite sports teams, or "password".
Tip 2 - Make it non-dictionary
One option a thief might try to crack your password is a brute-force dictionary attack. Choose something that you won't find in any dictionary.
Tip 3 - Use the full 8 characters
The more characters a password contains the more secure it becomes, so fill that password field to the max.
Tip 4 - Mix the case
Deter thieves further by using a combination of upper and lower-case letters. A mIXeD cAsE password adds another layer of protection and is ever harder to guess.
Tip 5 - Include non-alphabetic characters
Adding numbers and non-alphabetic characters (like a hyphen) to your password makes it less likely to be cracked than something purely alphabetic.
Tip 6 - Don't write it down
This should be obvious but it's amazing how many scraps of paper surround the world's PCs.
Tip 7 - Assign a different password to each login id
If thieves get hold of your password, they'll try it in every online system available. Use a separate password at each website and you won't have all your eggs in one basket.
Tip 8 - Employ a password manager
Remembering multiple secure passwords can be challenging. Specialist software like http://www.robo-form.com manages your passwords securely and automates the login process.
Tip 9 - Logout when you're done
Always hit the logout button when you've finished using a secure site like online banking.
Tip 10 - Close that browser
Web pages and passwords can be cached in the browser, so close down your browser window for added security.
Follow these simple common-sense tips and you'll enjoy greater online security while benefiting from the many advantages the Internet has brought.
Steve Robson is a successful technical author and contributor to 'How To Buy A Laptop.com' - the definitive online guide for buying a laptop computer. Check out: http://HowToBuyALaptop.com