Security firm Symantec on Friday released results of a survey on password management that showed 63 percent of respondents don't change their passwords very often, 45 percent use a few passwords that they alternate for all accounts, and some 10 percent don't change their passwords at all.

A not so far-fetched analogy of the password by the University of Wyoming

These are a startling numbers as, according to the survey, 44 percent of respondents said they have more than 20 accounts that require a password.

Worst of all, the survey also found that about 10 percent of respondents have used their pet's name as a password. This is as bad as using words that can be easily guessed, such as your name, your significant other's name, or your birthday.

The survey was done online at the Symantec Security Response blog over the course of a few days with some 400 responses from readers.

Symantec says that organizations as well as consumers can take precautions to lower their security risk and the first step is by using effective passwords.

An effective password is one that's hard to guess and yet at the same time easy for the owner to remember.

Here are some tips for choosing a strong password:

  • Use a mix of numbers, letters, punctuation, and symbols.

  • Take a word or phrase that's meaningful to you and alter it.

  • Replace the first few characters in your password with numbers or symbols.

  • The longer the better

  • Avoid personal information, repetition, sequences, and dictionary words.

For example, you can think of a meaningful sentence such as "Let the sun shine" then alter it, by replacing "e" with "3" and "s" with "$," into "L3tTh3$un$hin3" to use as a password. Of course, you need to make your own sentence.

As cumbersome as it is, having a strong password really goes a long way in protecting your personal information. For more information on consumers' general state of mind in regard to passwords, you can see the full Symantec survey results here.