One of the most common way hackers gain access to secure account is through weak passwords. Over the years we’ve experienced our own headaches with an account with a weak password and we’ve heard from clients who have their online accounts compromised due to poor security. Seems also that you hear in the news an almost daily account of systems being hacked and personal information being disseminated for the world to see. Scary stuff.
Your passwords are more important than you think.
Your password is the key and the lock. Storing your passwords correctly and using the right kind of password is essential to good security. Most homeowners go to great lengths to install strong locks on their doors. It’s just smart. Why don’t we have the same concern for our online accounts? Let’s face it, most of us have a tremendous amount of our life stored in the cloud. Shouldn’t we make every effort to secure all that private information? If you are a company or organization don’t you owe it to your clients and customers to make sure your (and their) data is as secure as you can possibly make it?
Now let’s be clear that there is no way to make anything online impenetrable. Even the government can’t seem to keep a tight reign on their data. However, there are some basic steps everyone should take to help keep their online account credentials secret, strong and safe.
Use unique passwords.
Chances are if you are reading this you probably use the same password for all of your accounts. If you do, stop right now and change your passwords. Why? Well, if a hacker gains access to one of your accounts they will move down the list (now having knowledge of your other accounts) trying to gain access to other accounts you use with that same (or a subtle variation) of your password. Using a unique password for every account you use helps to prevent a tidal wave effect if a hack occurs.
Use a strong password.
Try to avoid using simple words or phrases for your password. Yes, we know that there is great debate among security professionals regarding completely random passwords or phrase-based passwords. Either way, you’re better off using a strong password than something like ‘12345’ or even word, ‘password’. We’ve read a few reports that show that ‘password’ continues to be one of the most used passwords for people. Scary!
So what is a strong password? It’s something that will be very hard to guess. It’s something that doesn’t contain information that could be tied to you such as birthday or spouse’s name. Personally, we believe that a strong password is at least 12 digits in length with lower and uppercase letters, at least one number and at least one special character.
Use two-factor authentication when possible.
Let’s say you’ve followed all of these steps and created a unique and strong password. However, someone somehow manages to get access to your password. Panic sets in… unless you have set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on your account. Most of the major services such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft offer 2FA and if you have not activated that feature you need to do so. 2FA creates a second layer of security by requiring a unique code sent to your phone. So, even if someone does steal your password they would also have to have your phone to log into your account. There are even other 2FA options including USB keys that provide physical security for accounts.
Use a password manager to stay sane.
If you’ve gotten this far in the article you’re probably thinking this is all impossible. You’re saying, “I have dozens of accounts and these guys are wanting me to use unique, strong passwords for all of them! Impossible!” We feel your pain. Our company has chosen to use a password manager to take care of all our passwords. A password manager works by storing all of your passwords for you in a secure encrypted vault. You need only remember one master password and the password manager manages and stores all of the other passwords for you. It’s a life saver. There are many password managers out there including ones built into some operating systems. Do some research and find the one that works best for you. A solid password manager not only provides security for all of your passwords but also allows you to have strong and unique passwords for each account you use. It takes the headache out of trying to remember dozens of complex passwords.
Have questions? We don’t claim to be security experts by any means, but we have researched and implemented some of the security recommendations in this article in our own company and personal devices. We’d be happy to help answer any questions you have or point you to a security professional for more technical issues. Contact us today with questions or if you’re looking for quality website and graphics design services.