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Passwords vs Passphrases: Understanding the Key Differences and Best Practices

Passwords vs. Passphrases: Understanding the Key Differences and Best Practices

In today’s digital age, securing our online presence has become paramount. Passwords are our first line of defense, but not all passwords are created equal. Enter passphrases, a more robust and secure alternative. In this blog post, we’ll explore the difference between passwords and passphrases, and provide guidelines for creating strong passwords to enhance your online security.

Passwords vs Passphrases


A password is a combination of characters used to gain access to a system or an online account. The specific requirements for passwords can vary, with some websites and applications mandating a minimum length, a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols.


A passphrase is essentially a more sophisticated version of a password. Like passwords, passphrases grant access to systems and accounts, but they typically consist of at least four random words. This sentence-like string doesn’t necessarily have to make sense or be grammatically correct – in fact, it’s safer for it not to be. The strength of a passphrase lies in its character length and word randomness, making it less challenging to remember but still difficult to guess.

In essence, passwords should be a series of random character combinations, while passphrases should be composed of words, making them easier to remember. Both can provide strong security, but long passwords can be much harder to recall.

Passwords can be very effective when best practices are followed. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t follow them and use passwords that contain common words or publicly available personal information which makes them far less secure. This means that passphrases are generally more secure due to their length and memorability.

Examples of PasswordsExamples of Passphrases

Brute Force Attacks

A brute force attack is a cyberattack method where an attacker systematically tries all possible combinations of passwords until the correct one is found. It’s a relentless and potentially time-consuming approach that can be used to gain unauthorized access to systems, data, or accounts. Brute force attacks can be mitigated through strong, complex passwords, multi-factor authentication, and rate limiting to prevent repeated login attempts.

With the advancement of technology and evolvement of Artificial Intelligence, however, the cracking times of passwords are drastically reducing. Passwords that were once considered long and secure are now potentially crackable in just hours. This is why professionals stress the importance of long passwords as each additional character significantly increases the number of character combinations to work through for a brute force attack.

Guidelines For Creating Strong Passphrases

To create a strong passphrase that maximizes security, consider the following guidelines:

1. Length

Experts recommend using passphrases that consist of at least 15 characters but you should aim for the maximum length allowed by the system. For instance, if a system accepts passphrases between 8 and 64 characters, opt for a 64-character passphrase.

2. Avoid Common Phrases

Refrain from using popular phrases, sayings, or song lyrics as they are easily guessable.

3. Random Words

Incorporate random, unrelated words into your passphrase.

4. Use Multiple Words

It’s typically recommended to use at least five words in your passphrase.

5. Diversity

Employ different passphrases for each of your accounts to prevent a security breach from affecting multiple services.

Remember that passphrases do not need to form proper sentences or adhere to grammatical rules. The goal is to create a long, strong, and memorable combination of words and characters. This can be simplified by using a secure online tool such as Bitwarden’s Strong Password Generator which you can use to generate passwords and passphrases that fit the parameters that you set.

Managing Multiple Passwords

With the growing number of online accounts, remembering multiple passwords can be a daunting task. This is where password managers come into play. Password managers securely store your login credentials for various websites and systems, eliminating the need to remember them all.

Once set up, password managers can autofill forms for you, streamlining login and sign-up processes. Password managers can generate secure and customizable passwords and passphrases for your accounts, ensuring each one is strong and unique. Additionally, many password managers can notify you if a website you use has been breached or if your credentials are discovered on the dark web.

The main advantage of using a password manager is that you only need to remember one secure password or passphrase to access all your accounts, simplifying the management of your online security.

Passwords or Passphrases?

In conclusion, passwords and passphrases can both be secure when best practices are followed. While passphrases can offer more protection, with the use of password generators to create them and managers to store them, the benefit of memorability becomes obsolete.

It is suggested that people use a secure passphrase as the master password for their password manager. That way, they can memorize it and log in easily. From there, all accounts should use secure passwords/passphrases, which can be randomly generated by the password manager. Each one should be unique and long.

A Passwordless Future?

Some of the giants of the technology industry, including Google and Microsoft, have implemented a new way of securing accounts on their platforms through the use of ‘passkeys’. Passkeys provide a number of benefits over passwords and passphrases, the main of which is increased security due to the complete replacement of passwords from accounts. In our next blog post, we will go into what passkeys are, how they work and their benefits. Until mass adoption of this password alternative takes place, it remains vital for your accounts to be secured with long, strong and unique passwords or passphrases.

How Step Fwd IT Can Help

At Step Fwd IT, we are committed to ensuring that your company’s digital assets are protected with the highest level of security. One of the crucial steps in this journey is the implementation of robust password managers for your team.

With password managers, your team can generate and store complex, unique passwords for each account and application without the need to remember them. This significantly fortifies your company’s defenses against common cyberattacks such as brute force and credential stuffing.

We understand the importance of a smooth transition. Our team will provide extensive support throughout the rollout process, ensuring that your staff can harness the full power of password managers effortlessly. From creating strong, unique passwords to accessing them across various devices, we will be there to guide you every step of the way.

If you’re ready to take the next step in securing your company’s digital infrastructure, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’ll be delighted to initiate this transformation and ensure your company’s cybersecurity is at its best.

Let’s make digital security a strength of your organization. Contact us today to get started!