It goes without saying that all mission-critical
sensitive information should be password-protected. The key to a strong, tough-to-decipher password is to create a combination of alpha-numeric characters and symbols that make sense to you, but not anyone else. Other than IT managers and specialists, most employees (who aren’t necessarily tech savvy) don’t know of the many digital applications and methods widely used to crack passwords and hack into computer systems.
You often hear of cyber scam operators stealing sensitive information from some of the largest and most high tech organizations on the planet, such as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This might come as a shock to some since corporations of this caliber have state-of-the-art IT security systems.
However, if all employees partake in correctly developing and managing their passwords in a business or organization, they will greatly reinforce internal IT security and reduce the risk of external threats and attacks, no matter how strong. Granted, password protection isn’t the only component of a solid IT protection strategy, but it is an extremely important one.
With that in mind, below are several easy-to-implement suggestions on how to create highly secure passwords and ensure no one deciphers them.
1. Avoid dictionary words:
Coming up with passwords based on words in the dictionary is risky because advanced hackers often utilize software that enters common words into password fields. In fact, it becomes relatively easy to uncover a password that contains dictionary words, colloquial terms, words spelled backward or even consecutive keystroke combinations, such as “asdfg” or “tyuiop.” Refrain from using these items to form your passphrases.
2. Ensure that your passwords have adequate complexity and number of characters:
Our community of software developers and other IT professionals generally measures password strength in “bits.” A password’s strength depends on its number of “bits,” where more bits equate to greater strength and vice versa. Therefore, a 75-bit password would be much tougher to crack than a 25-bit password.
Passwords should also be fairly complex in terms of letters, numbers, and symbols for better protection. It may sound like a no-brainer, but some of the most popular passwords that have been breached contained passphrases such as 123456, 12345, 111111, princess, and abc123.
Besides length and complexity, don’t use personal information (i.e. your name, birth date, age, names of spouse, children or pets) to devise your passwords. A lot of that information can be found on the World Wide Web, especially on your social media profiles.
3. Don’t use the same password repeatedly:
Many of us tend to use the same passwords again and again for various online interactions and transactions. We do this so as to not create too many different passwords and then forget them. However, using the same one or two passwords for your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn profiles, email accounts, and bank accounts is dangerous. If a criminal hacks into one of your social media profiles, he or she would also have the keys to your bank accounts.
4. Invest in a high-quality IT security software solution:
Some people unintentionally download malicious software (such as keyloggers), primarily through emails coming into their email accounts. A keylogger is a type of spyware that is able to record your every keystroke to an encrypted log file. This malware records any information you type into a computer, including sensitive usernames and passwords that a cyber-criminal may, in turn, access for identity and financial theft. A comprehensive anti-malware service will assist you in spotting and removing this kind of malicious code.
5. Be conscious of computers and network connections before you enter a password:
In our present digital age of advanced tele-connectivity, people have easy access to computers in libraries, universities, internet cafes, and certain types of business centers. They can also find instant Wi-Fi in large airports, McDonalds, Starbucks, hotels, and other public facilities.
But you should refrain from putting your usernames and passwords into computers you don’t personally own or on public Wi-Fi connections, unless they are tightly secured. Cyber scammers may easily steal your passwords over an unsecure Wi-Fi connection or in computers that don’t belong to you.
6. Consider a password manager to help keep track of all your passwords:
Remembering different complex passwords for each of your protected computer accounts, sites, drives, and systems is no easy feat. In fact, it’s virtually impossible. So, you have the option of using a password manager service, like RoboForm (for Windows) and LastPass (for Windows and Mac) to facilitate password creation and storage for you. The only catch: you would need to remember the password to access this secure program for your other passwords.