UCL Information Services Division


Choosing an Acceptable Password

If you’ve navigated your way to this page, it’s probably because you’re having difficulty choosing a password that the system will accept. Don’t worry it’s not impossible!

Here are some tips to help you choose an acceptable password.

Some Dos and Don’ts

Do choose a password that is 8 characters long and one that you have not used before. (You may be able to type a password that is longer than 8 characters but anything after the 8th character will be lost and in fact not used)

DO use at least three of the following different types of characters:

  • lowercase characters
  • uppercase characters
  • numbers
  • symbols i.e. ! * ( ) _ + - =  ` ;  , ? / $ [ ] { }

    • BUT NOT £ : | \ ~ " < > % ^ &
    • It may be possible to only use two of these character types if the variation is great enough, but if a pattern is found it will require more.

Note: If you are using UCL Administrative Systems, your password should additionally NOT contain: the @ (at) symbol or start with either a space or " (double quote).

DON'T base your password on a dictionary word, proper name or personal details such as address, post code, phone number or department name

DON'T use foreign language words - the cracker program uses dictionaries containing words from a large number of languages including Yiddish, Finnish, German, and Danish

DON'T use names of bands, asteroids, cartoons, movies, TV programs, swear words, Shakespearean or Monty Python characters, or science fiction jargon - the dictionaries include these too

DON'T use any of the above with I's, L's and O's transposed with ones and zeros - these are matched

DON'T use the following symbols: £ : | \ ~ " < > % ^ &

DON'T merely disguise a word by using repetition or reversal or by adding a number to the beginning or end of it

DON'T use anybody else's user name as a password this information is included in the dictionary set.

Got it. But I’m still not sure how to choose a password

A simple but effective approach is to use a mnemonic phrase. Think of a memorable sentence, of eight words, then form a password by taking one or more characters from each word, including a mixture of capitals and punctuation.


Phrase: Chickens carried him off, kicking and screaming!

Password: CcHo,kAs

Phrases that can be visualised - however silly they might be - are often easiest to remember. Words of a song or a poem are possible sources of inspiration, but don't be too obvious. Use your imagination, but not our examples!

Now you’ve got that great new password...

  • Don’t keep a record of your user ID and password together
  • Never give your password out to anyone else
  • If you have reason to believe that your account has been tampered with at any time, change your password immediately and let the ISD Service Desk know as soon as possible