Do you cop out with your passwords?
With so many passwords required to go through a workday, not to mention evenings spent on social media, many of us simple give up, and settle for bad ones, or simply repeat them across sites. The thing is, these are easily cracked by the bad guys, or maybe the bad robots.
It’s time you stopped that and got real serious about your online security. You have a lot to lose. Besides, believe it or not, creating secure and easy-to-remember passwords are not all that difficult. Read on to avoid the most common password mistakes, and build secure ones that won’t compromise your online life.
1. Names. Using your real name, company name or product name in your password might make it easy to remember. But it also makes it extremely easy to crack.
2. Complete words. Avoid using complete words from the dictionary. Password-cracking software is sophisticated, and getting even more so. It will crack most words in a minute.
3. Common passwords. By far the worst security practice is using the most common passwords. A most abused one is “12345”. So are “superman” and “monkey”.
It might be tempting to use the title of your favourite TV show because it’s easy to remember. But, you’d be advised not to. When 47,000 Sony user passwords were breached last year, “Seinfeld” was the most popular.
4. Sharing passwords. It’s common for teams in offices to share a common password on a common account. This increases the risk of security breach. The least you can do, when sharing is absolutely necessary, is to ensure passwords are not written down and accessible in multiple places, or, worse, written on a post-it note and stuck on the screen of your PC.
5. Repeating passwords. It’s unwise to choose a single password and just stick to it. If one of your accounts is hacked, you open up all your other accounts to the same possibility.
Now let’s discard bad habits and find out the simple secret of creating strong and memorable passwords.
First and foremost, it’s easier than you might think. To create a strong password, follow a simple checklist. Make sure your password is at least eight characters long and includes a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
Now for the tricky bit: making it memorable.
Use your imagination to come up with solid passwords that you won’t forget. For instance, if you are a caffeine junkie, you could create some coffee-based strong passwords. The expression “cool beans” could easily be transformed into a strong password “C00lB3ans!”
Similarly, “skinny latte” could become “Sk1nny#Latt3”. “Espresso martini” could become “3pr3ss0Mart1n1$”, and so on. (Editor’s note: Mmmmmm, Expresso martini).
By choosing an obscure theme, setting passwords can be made really easy and in a perverse way, kinda fun. Just be warned that Seinfeld may be too mainstream.
(David Siddall communicates the benefits of cloud technology for SMBs each day at Australia’s largest independent IT security services provider MailGuard.)