Password Strength and Security: Ensuring Online Safety

Author James Mash 30.3.2015. | 15:18

 

Passwords grant access to almost anything – computer, a server on a network, emails, online transactions like banking and flight bookings and social media.

As such, the strength of your password is a significant factor to remember. This is also to make sure that your password could withstand hack attacks especially now that the number of data breaches has grown at a rapid rate.

Now what comprises a good password and how do you create one?

Use a password-creating system

One technique is to remember an old street you used to live say “Dean” and then convert the letters to numbers -45114. You could make it even stronger by converting an old phone number to letters. Say 238 5331 to bchebba and combine the letters to the numbers above: bchebba45114. To further strengthen your password, insert the numbers in between: b4c5h1e1b4ba

Multiple passwords for different online accounts

Vary your passwords for different online accounts so it won’t be easy for hackers to get hold of your data. Also, avoid the following:

  • Letters only
  • Numbers only
  • Names of bestfriends, spouses, girlfriend/boyfriend or pets
  • Birthdates, social security numbers or phone numbers
  • Foreign words that are found in the dictionary
  • Things which are associated with you (favourite food, favourite movies etc.)

Remembering all your passwords may seem difficult but for sites that don’t really matter, use one that is easy to recall.

Methods of obtaining passwords

Hackers will do anything to get hold of your files. They are equipped and armed with the right tools and techniques. Here are three basic methods they use: custom dictionaries, brute force and social engineering.

Custom dictionary

Avoid using simple passwords such as “ilovemycat” or “todayismybirthday” as they can be easily guessed. Hackers could crack them using a custom dictionary — a program that involves a combination of numbers, letters and keyboard characters.

Brute force

Brute force is a program that involves every combination of symbols, numbers, letters, and keyboard characters. Hackers experiment from two to three-character combinations. Hence, be as random as possible when creating your password. The longer the password, the more difficult it is for hackers to crack.

Social engineering

This involves someone who has criminal intentions and asks passwords directly from a user. It could be through casual conversation, exchanging information over the phone or simply someone looking over your shoulder when you are typing your log-ins in your laptop/pc.

Your password could be compromised for the following reasons:

Data breach is happening

Data breaches have recently affected companies. Hackers have infiltrated and compromised people’s information from a string of tech giants to other growing organizations.

You are considered “target” for hacking

There are plenty of people who want to take a peek into your personal life. Culprits could be anyone – from a nosy mother to your past exes, a nagging spouse or your long-time enemies. If those people have access to your password and password recovery options, your data is definitely at risk.

You may be a victim of brute-force attack

As previously mentioned brute-force attack involves experimenting two to three- character combinations and is a go-to-strategy for cracking passwords. The hackers may attack a group of user accounts or just yours. They would formulate all the possible words and phrases until they figure out the correct one.

How to safeguard your password

With the number of data breaches soaring nowadays, it’s important to keep your password strong, secure and foolproof. Here are pointers to remember:

Change your password after handing it over the phone

Exchanging information over the phone is risky. If there’s a need for your company to troubleshoot over the phone, change the password after handing it over.

Never write it down

Whether you are stuck in the office for hours or doing a home-based job, do not put your password on paper. Ever. This might get passed around and will end up in the wrong hands.

Change your password every now and then

Get into the habit of changing your passwords. The more sensitive your data, the more you should create a stronger password. Set a minimum password age or strength so it would be difficult for hackers to crack.

Clear the cache when using public PC

Keep in mind that public PCs reset to default the moment you log out. But never trust them. Even if you are using a laptop at a conference or meeting, it’s a good practice to change your password when you are in a public setting to protect your data from prying eyes. Online hackers hang out at such places. They love to snoop around and obtain important information either by looking over your shoulder or using a keystroke logger.

Passwords are vital to almost anything online so it’s best to create one that is strong and secure so your data won’t be compromised. Here’s hoping these tips will aid you in reducing the risk of password hack attacks.

Author James Mash 30.3.2015. | 15:18
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