It’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month, so we wanted to talk a bit about passwords this month. No matter where you go online, you will find a hundred different rules for creating a secure password. With MailChimp for example, you have to use punctuation in your passwords, with Gmail you must use at least one capital letter and one special character. And while these are all advisable things to do, they do not necessarily mean you have a secure password, just that you have met their criteria. So here are a few tips from All Your Computers on how to create, and remember, a strong, secure password.
In the modern age we have hundreds of different kinds of account that need passwords – from social media accounts to online banking. Instead of using one password that you can remember for all of your accounts, make sure you are using a different password for every single account. This is because re-using passwords is incredibly risky. If someone works out or steals your password, that person could get hold of your email, your home address or even your money. But if you use different passwords, it restricts the damage that could be done.
A lot of password protected accounts now require you to use at least 1 number or symbol in your password – but not all of them. Including a combination of letters, numbers and symbols makes your password even more secure, because it is much harder for someone to guess. So if you want your password to be ‘Santa Claus’, instead you could use ‘S4nt4@th3Cl4u$$’. This would be an incredibly difficult password for any person or machine to guess, making it very secure. The longer and more complicated your password, the more secure it will be. For example, an eight character password that uses letters, numbers and symbols has 30,000 times as many possible combinations than a standard eight letter character using just lower case letters.
A lot of people like using memorable information like names and dates for their passwords. But these are incredibly easy for hacker to guess, as this information is available freely online. Just by looking at your Facebook profile, someone can find out your date of birth, the dates of birth of everyone in your family and all of their names. Instead, create a set of passwords that have nothing to do with personal information. Select a random word or phrase, and intersperse it with some of those letters and symbols we talked about at random. This makes your password harder to guess and much more difficult to crack.
The next big issue is how do you store your new, secure passwords. After all, you’re using a different password for everything, so how could you possibly remember them all? Well, unless you’re a savant, you probably can’t memorise them, so you need to keep a record of them somewhere. The worst place for you to do this is on your computer. If someone steals your laptop or desktop, you will be handing them not only all of your business and personal data, but the passwords to get to it as well. There are 2 ways around this – the first is using a piece of password management software (we like Dashlane) that keeps your passwords secure behind multiple walls of hard to crack security. If you don’t fancy trying out new systems, keeping a physical note of your passwords is another option. This one does have a BUT attached though. If you are using a notebook to keep a record of all of your passwords, don’t keep it near your computer or desk. This is too easy for someone to walk past and steal, so that notebook is best kept with you at all times or in a safe, secure place.
So, in the spirit of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, why not take a look at your passwords and make an effort to improve them and your cyber security. The most dangerous thing you can think about password hacking is that ‘it won’t happen to me’, so instead of just hoping, take action and make your identity more secure online.