Whether it is the new log in at work, for security with online banking or even to protect our Facebook profiles, passwords are a crucial part of everyday life.
Commonly used with usernames or pins or perhaps even a part of a security measure which asks for two or three different letters at a time, a password offers the protection needed to avoid exposure to unprecedented risk. Despite being our first line of defence against cyber criminals, a significant proportion of the population fail to fully acknowledge the importance of this additional security.
Impersonation to commit fraud, accessing financial details, impersonating you in communication with another or accessing personal details are just some of the risks of cyber crime. In 2011 one million unencrypted passwords were leaked from a hack on Sony in one of the largest data security breaches in history whilst in April of this year the data of fifty million users was compromised on the website Living Social. The past ten years has witnessed an upsurge in internet usage but with it, cyber crime has also increased.
As a result of the evident risks before us, it is vital to ensure that the password you select is one impossible for anyone to guess.
Don’t choose a password that is...
- Similar to your username
- Is your birthday
- Is your business name
- Includes ascending numbers or letters
For many of us it is difficult to break from the norm. When selecting a password, a number of us choose the name of a family member, friend or memorable place, the birthday of someone special or even the “easy option” of either password or 123456. When selecting your password don’t go for the obvious choices and instead ask yourself whether your selected password contains information that your nearest and dearest are aware of because if the answer is yes then rest assured it won’t be too long before this titbit of information is discovered by a professional hacker.
Understandably even the most patient of us can get frustrated when a website asks us to include capital letters and numbers in our passwords; it seems like far too much effort and all rather annoying. However, believe it or not when a website asks you to vary your password, it is doing so for your own security, the longer the password and the more variation in your use of letters, numbers and symbols the safer you are.
Of the one million unencrypted passwords leaked from the hack on Sony in 2011, 65% of those were words found in a dictionary. A dictionary attack is one of the most common methods used to hack a password and simply sees a computer try every entry in a dictionary until it matches a password. Some dictionary attacks are sophisticated enough to substitute letters for numbers so if you thought you were being clever by changing your E to a 3, think again. With one of the largest available dictionaries, Openwall, hosting a list of fourty million words, there comes no surprise as to why those estimated 650,000 Sony passwords were so easily hacked. This example in particular reiterates the importance of choosing a complex password that is unique and memorable only to you.
Give it a try, instead of creating a password that reads Sam19May why not go for 5amwb019M which stands for ‘Sam was born on 19 May’. The web can be a dangerous place and unfortunately there is nothing that can shield us from cyber criminals, hacking is their job and for that reason it is up to you and you only to, when selecting your password, make their job as difficult as possible.
Our top tips...
- The longer your password the better so try to keep it above 8 letters
- Over 67% of internet users use the same password across multiple accounts. Don’t use the same password for everything because if one is compromised then everything else will be too (Facebook, Twitter, Email, Bank).
- Change your passwords regularly, keeping things fresh will throw off any potential hackers
- Always keep variation in mind. The use of numbers, letters and symbols will all work in your favour.
Never underestimate the importance of a good password because it really can be the ultimate protection against cyber crime.
If you feel as though your password isn’t good enough then change it now, before it is too late.
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