Safeguard yourself with strong passwords

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GUEST POST BY CYBERSECURITY JUNGLE

 

We get it. Passwords can be a pain in the !@#$%. They are almost impossible to remember and having multiple different passwords for every imaginable website or service there is on this planet can seem like a nightmare.

Like it or not, unless you’ve completely moved away from passwords to passkeys, security keys, or passphrases, passwords are here to stay for some time to come. So, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

We like to think of passwords as keys to our homes, offices, cars and anything we’d consider to be valuable to us. And a lot like keys, passwords come in all shapes and sizes. They go from the short to long, simple to intricate, familiar to novel.

In the same way keys open the doors to your home, passwords unlock your digital life. They are also one of the few ways of proving who you are so it won’t come as a complete surprise that criminals want to get their dirty hands on them for their own malicious purposes. What’s a guy or gal to do?

To prevent anyone else from getting access to your accounts, it pays to have a strong password that’s also paired with additional protections like multi-factor authentication to keep the bad guys out. And if you’re wondering what makes passwords strong or weak, here’s how with 12 easy-to-follow dos and don’ts:
 

Dos
  • Length matters – 12 or more characters make it difficult for cybergangs to unravel passwords.
  • A twist on alphabet soup – Password combinations of lower and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols keeps cybercriminals guessing.
  • Entropy is your friend – Passwords made up of a random mix of numbers, letters and symbols are a whole lot harder to crack than common words or phrases.
  • Keep it unique and personal – Use a different password for each account. If someone gets a hold of your password for one of your accounts, chances are they can easily access other accounts too.

 

Don’ts
  • Shhh! – Steer clear of passwords that include personal details like names, license plates, nicknames, initials, phone numbers, addresses, birthdays or things you’re interested in such as hobbies, outdoor activities, celebrities, sports, movies or music.
  • Degrees of separation – Cyber thieves research their targets and will use any clues they can to find out your password. Leave out any information about your partner, kids, grandparents, pets, work, anniversary dates or military call signs in your passwords.
  • ABCs and 123s dangers – Skip repeating or sequential letters and numbers such as 1234, ABCD, AAAA, ABABAB and so on. They make it easy for up-to-no-good hackers to figure out your passwords.
  • It’s the little things – Clued up cyber hoodlums know every trick in the book so changing your password from AwesomePassword1 to AwesomePassword2 also known as incremental passwords isn’t going to cut the mustard.
  • Dictionaries are so last century – Say no to dictionary, common words or phrases like password, iloveyou or sunshine. Yup, these are real passwords malevolent criminals have deciphered.
  • Substitutes aren’t the answer – Replacing L for a 1 or E for a 3 isn’t going to fool anyone. Nefarious crooks are a savvy bunch and they are way ahead of you.
  • Pattern smattern – Avoid keyboard patterns like qwerty or qazwsx.
  • Singles remix – Get rid of single words that have numbers or symbols at the start or end. For example, password123 or !password123.
  • Drop it like it’s hot – Keep away from passwords that have been breached or compromised.

 

And if you’re wondering whether to pick short or long passwords with or without a combo of numbers, letters and symbols, here’s how fast or long it takes evil doers to guess passwords*: (Source: Specops Software)

 

If this all sounds puzzling or daunting, it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of tools like password generators and managers that take the guesswork out of picking a password that’s long and random. Here are a couple of our personal favorite online generators that come bundled with password managers too.

The upside of password managers is a lot of them come packaged with all sorts of features such as alerting you if your passwords have been leaked, tips that let you know if your password needs working on or when you are reusing passwords.

Wrap-up
Since passwords are the keys to your most treasured assets or crown jewels, it’s a good idea to protect them from cyber villains who are always on the hunt for weak passwords. Give your accounts a boost today with strong passwords.


 
 
 
 

*Technically, how quickly or slowly cyber thugs decipher passwords varies on a bunch of factors like the hashing algorithm a service or website uses, password reuse, compromised passwords and a whole lot more.