Passwords are an increasingly large presence in our everyday lives. They have come a long way from the four-digit code we use in the local supermarket. Whether used in online-banking, social media, email accounts - almost every kind of online presence requires a password, and if it falls into the wrong hands, you risk having not only your money stolen but your entire online identity. Learn more about how to avoid dangers and protect yourself by following the steps below.
Who is looking at your password?
There are some different cases in which you need to protect yourself. Some password breaches are beyond your control. In February 2017, the dominant email platform Yahoo! reported a breach of their databases, resulting in millions of email accounts falling into the hands of hackers. These hackers were able to penetrate the very database where your email account was located, which means that in this case, your password did not stop them.
The good news is that even if you have an email account with Yahoo! you probably don’t have to worry about anything. The company was eventually successful at containing the breach. What you should be more worried about are hackers going directly after your accounts. You may think to yourself “I do not have anything to hide,” but chances are you probably do. Most of us have emails, old pictures or documents that we would not want other people to see. If the hackers were successful in obtaining these, they could use it to blackmail you, by threatening to send it to your current employer, your spouse or other family members. These are the kind of personalized hacking attempts from which you should try to safeguard yourself.
The last and perhaps most apparent hacking attempt could be towards your bank account. It goes without saying that keeping your bank account safe is important. This is probably where you store most of your money, and if you have it stolen due to a personal password exposure, the bank may not be willing to help get the money back.
How to make a strong password
In the online security community, the strength of a password is determined in bits. The more bits a password has, the stronger the password. A 70-bit password is stronger than a 20-bit password and would take much longer to hack. It should be pretty clear to you by now that creating a strong password is essential to your online financial and personal security. The guide below will help you in creating a stronger password of higher bit value, which is essentially impossible to hack.
- Make your password a minimum of 16 characters long. If you decide to make it even longer, it is even better. It goes without saying that the longer your password is, the harder it is to guess, due to the increasing number of different alphanumerical combinations.
- Make a combination of letters, lower case, upper case, numbers, symbols, and spaces. The more variety you add, the more difficult it will be to guess.
- DO NOT include any full words or number sequences - especially ones that may be related to you. These can assist a hacker in figuring out your password quickly.
The password "johnsmith1965" may be easy for you to remember if your name is John Smith and you were born in the year 1965, but keep in mind that this also makes it incredibly easy for the hacker to guess.
Instead, create a password that reads something like "k7Uc-31MjVb?0P!8" At first, this might seem extremely difficult to remember, but always keep in mind that the more difficult it is for you to remember, the more difficult it will be for the hacker to crack. Even if they try every possible combination of words, numbers, and symbols, it would likely take them years to find the exact password, which means it probably isn't worth the effort!
Take some time to memorize your password. Write it down on a piece of paper even before you begin to use it. Practice it every night before you go to bed. After a week or so when you have successfully memorized the password, put it to use by changing the password for one of your accounts. Then safely dispose of the paper by tearing it to pieces or burning it. As you start to use it every day, you will eventually realize that the password has become imprinted on your brain. You will never forget it again, just like your social security number, or that first landline telephone number you had 15 years ago.
Dennis O’Reilly, in his book "Mastering the Art of Passwords," suggests making up a phrase like, "Do you think The Bruins will win the NHL in 2017?" and then take all of the initials and numbers, as well as the symbols to create your password. In this case, the result would be "DytTBwwtNHLi2017?". This is without a doubt a powerful password, and a very easy way to remember it!
Using password managers to keep track of your passwords
If you have many different online accounts, you should naturally be concerned with using the same password for all of them. One of the most valuable lessons that you will learn today is: Do not use the same password for more than one service! Regardless of whether the password you have created is secure, if a hacker gets it they’ll have access to ALL of your accounts.
One way to deal with this is to use a password manager. A password manager is a desktop program which lets you store and manage all of your passwords for different accounts. The good thing about a password manager is that you will not have to memorize every single password; the manager will do that for you. It will then insert the correct password when you prompt it to do so. All you have to remember is your master password. Make sure that this master password is super secure. We recommend using the guidelines mentioned above.
Some of the more popular brands of password manager are DashLane, LastPass, and 1Password. These software programs work the same way. You may manage your passwords from a desktop program (or mobile application in some cases), and a browser extension of this program will automatically insert the correct password in the login field when you type in the master password. Of course, it is important to remember that even password managers are vulnerable to password breaches, and can potentially be accessed by hackers.
Another precaution you can take is to use the service offered by some email and social media sites, called two-step-verification. When you attempt to sign in to one of these services, you must first enter your regular password and will then be prompted to enter a security code from your telephone, making it impossible for a potential hacker to access your account without also being in possession of your telephone.
We recommend using all, or a combination of some of the techniques mentioned above - this will give you a big advantage over hackers who are trying to compromise your online security. It is always better to be as safe as possible when partaking in online activities because you just never know who might want your information.
What do you do to remember your password, and keep it safe from the hackers? Let us know in the comments below.