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Most Americans have terribly weak passwords

(KOMO file photo)

(KOMO) -- Here's a New Year's resolution that could make a big difference in your life: Resolve to update and improve the passwords for your online accounts.

The threat of being hacked is real and growing worse all the time. And yet, many people pick terrible passwords, like “password” or “123456.” A popular one right now is “ILoveYou.” A crook can crack these simple passwords in no time.

So what's a good password?

It should be at least 12 characters long with a mix of upper and lower case letters, plus numbers or symbols.

Lorrie Cranor, a cybersecurity researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, says using a string of words about 20 characters long is fine – and might be easier for you to remember – as long as those words are random.

“A lot of people hear [the message] to just put some words together, so they take their favorite songs or a quote or something and that's not a good idea,” Cranor said.

Chances are you have dozens of passwords. Start by updating and strengthening the ones for your most important accounts – email, medical and financial.

More Info: The top 5 worst passwords of 2017 (and how to choose one that's secure)

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