Your Safety Starts With Your Password!
This, as you may have surmised, is the common password of an uninformed person, ignorant to the dangers of the world might have on their luggage or much more seriously, their company web site or email server.
As we’ve entered a new year, I hope to help you understand the epidemic of bad passwords that can expose you and how to avoid the same mistakes. We hear every few weeks with increasing regularity which company was hacked this week. So, what are the reasons it happens, and why aren’t measures put in place to stem the tide of trouble?
The number one reason, is almost always password strength. It’s simple, but true.
Why Your Current Password is Weak
How many years out of the last 10 has “123456”, or even “12345” been the top password reportedly used? It almost always ends up in the top tier. Right near some of the other worst possible choices for security. Regardless of how you type it, “P@ssword”, “password123”, “passWord1!”, or even “P@$$W0rd123”, are all pretty much on the same level when it comes to security.
Even those of us that get a bit more creative can fall into the same pit. I’m sure the first person to use “qwerty” thought “No one would ever guess this one!” …until they did. Common words are just far too common as passwords. For such an important thing, you would think more people would choose the most secure method for protecting personal and professional data. It takes teams of network engineers to keep computer systems up and running, yet only a single user with the right, or should I say wrong, password to bring them tumbling down.
So when are “football”, “ninja” or “money” great passwords to use? The answer, of course, is never!
Common Password Mistakes
The common misstep made when creating a password is that it’s just too short or easy to decipher. Even when substitute characters are used to enhance the security of a password, the changes may only delay the inevitable if they are just too common. The “@”, in P@ssword for example. Some may assume that they’ve just bulked up security, but the reality is that you’ve just entered another very common password.
Create a Strong, Secure Password
By most definitions, a strong password is anywhere from 10-15 characters long. It will use both upper, and lower case letters. It will include both numbers, and symbols (@, #, $, ^, &), and will not include a keyboard pattern (12345, qwerty, etc.). Other requirements are that it not be the same as your username, is different than any previously used password, and will not be anything common, like say “Hillary2016!”.
To take it a step further, be sure not to include the name of a friend or family member, and to be absolutely safe, don’t make it any word found in the dictionary. That last point can be a difficult rule to follow when you have 10-12 different username and password combinations, trust me I know. Yet if you follow most of these rules you will be able to create a password that is both secure and manageable.
Manage Your Passwords Wisely
There are also many tools out there to help ease the burden of remembering multiple passwords. You will just have to see which fits you best. Yet when looking for a password management system, avoid just typing them out on an unsecured document or application. Saving them in WordPad is not any more secure than using “password” for a password! Should access to that document be found, any other system listed will be compromised.
Another fault is to use the same username and password for multiple systems. This could be an issue when one system is hacked, and your username and password are all the same across your social media, email, and bank account sites!
For internal systems it is a good idea to force your users to adhere to a strict strong password policy. Force many of the above requirements and you’ll save yourself and your business the immense trouble of becoming the next corporation to be victimized by hackers. Force regular password changes and avoid these common pitfalls. Your digital security really does depend on it!