Creating a strong home security code

Any computer user is sure to have experienced frustration in setting or changing a password. They'll be told that the password isn't long enough, or needs to have a capital letter, or lacks a number or special symbol, or was used too recently to use again.

The requirements are designed to protect your online accounts, but trying to remember the jumbled mess of characters can often be a challenge. It is especially aggravating if you vary your passwords among different accounts. With all of these difficult passwords to remember, homeowners might be forgiven for choosing a simple code for their home security system.

Some systems require you to enter a numerical code to both arm the system and disarm it when you come home. People may also opt to use a digital lock instead of one requiring a key. Doug Bonderud, writing for AT&T Digital Life, says these mechanisms take away the hassle of getting locked out of your home or having to find a secure hiding place for keys.

A home security system or keyless entry are only as strong as the code you choose. If you select a weak one, and intruder can easily decipher how to get into your home.

Sequential numbers are easy to remember, but they also make an easy to crack code. The password manager SplashData says the poor password most commonly used among people in the United States and western Europe is 123456. It's an easy one to remember, but it's also one that unwelcome visitors can easily guess.

Home security systems typically have a four-digit code, which lends itself to a number of easy to remember sequences. These include the last four digits of your Social Security number, the month and day of your birthday, the year you were born, a bank PIN number, or the last four digits of your phone number.

You may want to steer away from these numbers. Counterstrike Security & Sound, a home alarms company based in Cape Coral, Florida, says some of these numbers are easy to acquire. You might have your birth or anniversary year posted on a social media account, or an intruder could guess it in a relatively brief period of time. Sarah Granger, writing for the software security company Symantec, says people can easily guess codes based on your address or personal phone number.

Avoid any other easily accessible numbers, such as your vehicle's license plate. The Office of Information Technology at the University of California at Santa Barbara says you should also not make a code by simply repeating one number.

One option is to choose a date that has personal significance to you but is not easy to find, such as the month and year you met your spouse. Bonderud says you can also improve the code's strength by putting this number into the system backwards.

You can also choose a set of numbers which seems random but is easy for you to remember. One option is the last four numbers of a parent's phone number; fans of a certain Tommy Tutone song might be content with the code 5309.

Don't go with the default code that came with the system. These codes might be very simple, such as a sequence of identical numbers, or they can be easily accessible by people who know the default codes of various systems.

Many systems won't have letters, but others might assign sets of letters to certain numbers like a phone's keypad. Even if the system has numbers alone, you might create a code based on number substitution. For example, the word "key" would translate to 8-5-25.

If the system allows you to change the length of the code, you can consider making one that is longer or shorter than the traditional four numbers. Adjusting the code's length can prove especially confusing for someone who expects only four numbers.

Periodically changing the code will reduce the chance that anyone will crack the system. The UC-Santa Barbara Office of Information Technology recommends changing passwords every 60 to 90 days. They also say the code should not be written down or shared with anyone you don't know.

Keyless door locks can often be outfitted with a guest code so you don't have to give out the main code. Bonderud says this feature allows you to make your home accessible to babysitters, dog walkers, and other people who need to get inside. The guest code can be programmed to only work at certain times, and it can be deleted if need be.

Ideally, you should be able to remember a home security code without any trouble, but it should not be so simple that other people can deduce what it is. A good code on your alarm or lock will ensure that the system can keep you safe and won't be corrupted.

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