Strong passwords are perhaps the barest basics of information security. Nobody likes hackers tampering with their sensitive data. As a result, almost every digital application in the modern world requires the use of passwords.
Do you remember when you have to check your emails, access courses online, communicate on social media, or even use a secure credit card online? For the most part, you use a password to complete the process.
However, there’s a problem: most people access so many sites that they consider it impractical to keep a separate password for each one in a bid to avoid having to recall so many passwords at the same time.
Consequently, they decide it’s best to use two or three passwords across websites. Besides this, they make the equally wrong move of using predictable passwords.
All of these combine to poor password security. Comprehensive password security practices are non-negotiable.
Hackers thrive on popular but bad user password practices, including the use of names, nicknames, dates of birth, maiden names, and others like these.
It’s so easy to guess that as soon as thieves gain access to one login, they can access victims’ information and cause them personal and financial harm.
The complexity of a password is proportional to password security. There are even sophisticated programs capable of generating passwords using combinations of personal information, including addresses, phone numbers, middle names, and so forth.
These programs can attempt several thousand login attempts every hour.
Why are Strong Passwords Important for Your Online Safety?
Password strength is a crucial piece of the cybersecurity puzzle. Passwords are the gateway to bank accounts, credit card accounts, and multiple other private aspects of people’s lives.
Therefore, there are high stakes involved. Thus, each person should have a new password for every login and ensure that one features enough complexity and uniqueness for its specific purpose.
There are several reasons why cybersecurity experts recommend strong and unique passwords. On the one hand, malicious threats from bad actors are on the rise, compromising websites and online accounts and providing lists of email addresses, usernames, and passwords online.
When user passwords are publicly available, other personal information identifying the user is also present.
Therefore, an attacker can trace other accounts from the same individual pertaining to banking, work, or social media. In addition, password reuse on multiple websites or platforms makes the hacker’s job easy.
When a password is too hard to find or guess, threat actors resort to a method known as brute-forcing. In simple terms, they try all possible passwords until they stumble on the correct one.
Computers are capable of doing this at a rate of thousands per second. For the technique to work, the malicious actor needs your password to be easy; user passwords are often like this. Brute forcing is less likely to succeed when the password is strong.
Attackers who use brute-forcing techniques typically try as many words as are present in the dictionary since they’re easier to remember than random letter combinations.
The technique lends itself well to non-English dictionaries. Many password combinations involve lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols, so actors use human instinct to limit the possibilities.
In one example, most users pick a password to fit these requirements by choosing a word with the first letter in uppercase and ending it with a symbol or a number.
Still, at other times people opt to replace letters with similar-looking numbers or symbols. For example, it’s not uncommon to see a password such as “password” entered as “p9ssw0rd”. Mind you, this is still an easy pattern to figure out.
How Do Hackers Have an Advantage Against You?
The hacker’s first advantage is to have unfettered access to private or personal information. They can access and manipulate data or financial assets once they can control the account in question using the password.
Protecting your password is the first line of defense against the hacker. However, organizations need to be especially careful about this because hackers can access secure corporate assets using social engineering tactics.
Hackers can leverage existing technology to create an environment where they can live in our network without detection.
Therefore, it is impossible to eliminate the hacker advantage. First, however, hackers need to locate an appropriate target.
Since this takes time, it can buy security teams some time to cover the bases and tackle emerging threats using robust security policies.
The Importance of Password Strength Checker and Password Vault
Sometimes, it’s essential to get instant and straightforward feedback on what a strong password is. Under correct usage, it ensures that the user can choose more crack-resistant passwords.
Password strength checkers provide strict guidelines when selecting passwords for websites and accounts.
In the same way, password vaults are important in the arsenal of anyone using digital platforms. A password vault is also known as a password manager.
It is a secure application for creating a different ultra-safe and secure password for all purposes, whether it’s banking, email, website logins, and payments.
Whether on a personal or corporate level, a password vault will store credentials safely and control access to them, enabling IT professionals to promptly provide end-users with the information they need. As access points in organizations continue to grow exponentially, there is a greater need for password vaults.
How to Construct the Perfect Password
The perfect password is strong and unique. In a bid to construct the ideal password, one approach is to use a password manager.
They can run on a computer, smartphone, or the cloud and help with securely tracking and storing passwords. In addition, most password managers can generate strong, random passwords for every account.
When using a password manager, use a strong and unique password to access it. Also, ensure it has two-factor authentication.
If an organization running a cloud-based password manager experiences an attack, all passwords available on it will be accessible to the threat actor(s).
Likewise, password managers running on a local computer or smartphone, malware can compromise available passwords.
Good password managers are available for the top computer security companies.
Another way to build the perfect password is to select a repeatable pattern for every password. It might be a sentence that contains specific messaging for an account or website and uses the first letter of each word as a password.
Here’s an example: “This is my password for my Gmail account!” Using the first letter of each word in the sentence gives “Timp4mGa!”
The number “4 “ comes from using the “four” in place for its homonym “for.” But, using this technique means that multiple passwords from the same user could quickly reveal the pattern.
To create variations of this pattern, use the first letters from a line in a book, poem, song, or scripture.
What Other Methods to Use to Be Safe Online
Here are a few ways to create the perfect password that keeps your information safe and your information online.
Stronger passwords have preferential but potent protection from hackers and malicious software. Strong passwords are essential for every account on a computer or other device.
- All important accounts should have a unique password for important accounts such as email and online banking. It’s risky to use the same password for multiple accounts because one good hack can cause someone to lose valuable information or money.
- Keep passwords at no less than eight characters long. It’s best to use a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. With proper construction, longer passwords are more secure.
- Personal information such as name, age, date of birth, favorite color, food, or song, should not feature in your password construction.
- It’s best to avoid consecutive keyboard combinations such as zxcvb or qwerty.
- Be sure to always sign out/log off each time you walk away from your device. It only takes a few moments, and it’ll ensure that unauthorized elements do not access your system even to take a look.
- Only use your passwords on the computers you control. They may have malicious software aimed solely at stealing your password.
- Only enter passwords when using secured Wi-Fi connections such as those found in public spaces like airports. Hackers can intercept passwords and data from unsuspecting users from unsecured connections.
- Keep your passwords to yourself.
- Have a culture of changing your passwords regularly. Do not use the same password twice.
- If you usually write down your passwords on paper, stop doing so now, especially if you keep it somewhere around your computer or mobile phone.
- Browsers will often try to make things convenient for you by requesting your permission to save your password. Always choose “Never” when this request dialog pops up.
- Make it a habit to look over your shoulder when entering your password. You can politely request anyone close to look away for a moment.
- Use multi factor authentication so that your accounts could be more secured.
These dozen ways will at least prevent you from the most common hacker traps out there.
Passwords are the nucleus of end-user security. Having a good password regime in place can keep the bad guys from perpetrating grievous criminal acts against us or our organizations.
David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at IDstrong.com. The passion to make cyber security accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has.