There is a certain irony that, amidst the current furore over the illegal hacking of phones, the queen unveiled a memorial to a select group of people who used their hacking skills for the good of the nation, and whose efforts are generally considered to have shortened the Second World War by as much as two years.

The queen unveiled a monument at Bletchley Park, which served as a cipher school back in the dark days of wartime. This is where the supposedly unbreakable Enigma code, which was used by the Germans in all of their vital military communications, was broken by, excuse the pun, a crack team of code breakers. Cracking the Enigma code enabled the Allies to hack into the Germans' plans and take appropriate action, although I do not think that use of the term 'hacking' was current at that time.

These days we all seek to achieve the same goal as the Enigma machine in our daily lives by setting what we hope are impenetrable passwords to protect important data, such as bank details and health records. The setting of passwords is taken much more seriously these days than it was in the early days of computing, when notices were issued advising people not to use the word FRED as their password. This was a popular choice because the close proximity of the letters on the keyboard meant that it could be entered quickly. It became such a common password, however, that it was the first one tried by would-be hackers, who saw it as a sort of skeleton key to open many locks.

And yet while doing research for this article I was surprised to learn that the sort of password I considered to be seriously strong, was actually a mild cheddar that could be easily broken. For example, I used the name of a little known racehorse I backed as a young man, which won me a lot of money. The name of the horse contains a double letter and I switched this for the year of release of the film that featured the character from which the horse got its name (this switching of letters for other characters is known as obfuscation).

According to my research, such a password would fall into the category of Examples of Weak Passwords. It states that, Words with simple obfuscation, for example where vowels are replaced with numbers corresponding to their position in the alphabet, as in 1M5R9C1N (AMERICAN) can be easily tested automatically with little effort.

Access databases often contain information of a sensitive nature, and so encryption is sometimes necessary to protect it. In Access 2007 securing your data behind a strong password is a fairly simple procedure.

Click on the Office button and then choose Open from the Office menu. When you find the database you wish to encrypt, click once, not to open it, but to bring up the down arrow at the right. Click this arrow and select Open Exclusive from the list. This will open the database in a way that will allow encryption. Open the Database Tools tab, and double-click on Encrypt with Password. This will bring up the Set Database Password dialog box. Type in a password, bearing in mind the strength features I mentioned above, and again in Verify. Click OK.

This will set your new password and the next time you wish to access that database you will be prompted for your password.