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Here’s a disconcerting item: one out of five web users still use simple, easily guessed passwords like “1234567,” “abc123,” “iloveyou” and even “password.”

The New York Times suggests that hackers could break into many accounts just by trying the most common passwords. “Because of the prevalence of fast computers and speedy networks, hackers can fire off thousands of password guesses per minute.”

In practice, it would be more complicated than that, but if you use weak passwords (or haven’t changed your passwords for years), then it’s time to update now.

Many OS X apps in Tiger, Leopard and Snow Leopard have a built-in Password Assistant to help you choose a stronger password. You can use this Password Assistant to generate strong passwords (and test your existing password) for any purpose.

However, it’s not obvious where to find this small application. One way to launch it is to open your Keychain Access application, then click File > New Password Item. You can also find it in System Preferences > Accounts > Change Password.

If you want to launch Password Assistant without having to open a separate application, you can download a tiny program also called Password Assistant. It solely exists to launch the Mac’s built-in Password Assistant. Click here to see this.

I’d been thinking about covering Password Assistant for a few weeks, and the report about weak and common passwords seemed like the perfect occasion to do this. But just this morning I noticed another great article that covers this very subject in detail at, written by the always great Dan Frakes. Click here to read this. It also covers the popular 1Password application.

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