By Hayk Saakian
Passwords of the Past and Today
In the past, protecting your online accounts with passwords was relatively simple. Practically any password would do the trick. As cyber attackers and hackers have enhanced their methods and capabilities over the years, it has become increasingly more difficult to protect your online identity and activities across all of your accounts.
Passwords, along with usernames and email accounts, are your gateway into your online accounts, including member versions of webpages, banking accounts, social media accounts, and email accounts. To withstand numerous, sophisticated hacking attempts, you will need to create and maintain very strong, difficult-to-crack passwords.
Most account creation or password reset pages have detailed instructions on the sorts of passwords that will be allowed by the website’s account security network. Generally, it is advised that today’s passwords should have the following components:
• Complicated characters
• Sufficiently long number of characters
• Difficult to crack with just a lucky guess
What follows is more information about passwords and password security, including additional tips about safe passwords, the issue with having strong passwords, and how password managers can benefit you.
Common Ways to Reveal Passwords
It is important to find ways to increase your password’s strength. There are many avenues that hackers or other unwanted parties can use to reveal your accounts’ passwords.
Learn how hackers commonly attack their targets to proactively defend yourself. Here are just a few of the more common ways that passwords are exposed:
• Phishing attacks: This attack uses a compromised site and tricks you into entering your real account information onto it, thus revealing it to the source of the attack.
• Brute-force attacks: This attack uses software to rapidly input a massive number of password combinations, hoping to pick your real password by chance. Many sites and apps now stop this sort of attack from happening.
• Malware attacks: This attack is a type of malicious software that is often piggybacking off of a downloaded product or service. It covertly tracks your computer and online activity, revealing your password and account information to the malware’s source as you enter it.
• Guessing: Seems implausible, but some people use simple, predictable passwords that nearly anyone could correctly guess. Others use passwords that can be guessed by anyone who knows some basic details about the target, such as their names, family members’ names, birthdays, or other personal information.
• Recycled password attacks: If your password was ever part of any data breach, then hackers will copy that old password and try using it to sign in to your other platforms. For example LinkedIn was hacked in 2016, so if you used your LinkedIn password for iCloud or Gmail, then those two accounts are very vulnerable to this type of attack. Check with https://haveibeenpwned.com to see if your email was part of any recent hacks.
Top 3 Password Tips
To avoid attacks such as those mentioned above, it is best to start with harder-to-crack passwords. Here are a few tips on beefing up your passwords:
• Long character length: Most sites require you to create a password with at least 8 characters. The more characters in your password, the more potential combinations that your password may represent. Fourteen characters are suggested as a decent minimum for password length.
TIP: Think of a weird sentence that only you would know in order to have a very long and memorable password. For example “CharmTowerSomewhereDelicate” is a 27-character password, and it could be very easy to remember. (Warning: Do not use this actual password.)
• Randomize characters: Do not simply use words with alternating lowercase and uppercase letters combined with some symbols as your password. Hackers have gotten much better at guessing the patterns that people may use when creating their passwords.
• Test your password strength: Some sites will tell you the relative strength and predictability of your passwords. These sites will give you a good indication of whether you should make even tougher passwords or if your current ones will suffice for now.
Issues with Strong Passwords
There are two chief problems with creating truly unique passwords that are extremely difficult to guess or crack. One, you are more likely to write the password down somewhere, and, two, you will probably use that password on numerous accounts.
Writing it down leaves open the possibility of the paper and password being discovered.
Reusing the password on different accounts leaves all of them open to exploitation if the account with the weakest security is ever breached.
The Benefits of a Password Manager
Technology and data security experts strongly suggest that people look into password managers to handle the security of the passwords of your many online accounts. An effective password manager will perform the following functions:
• It will create and store new passwords for you periodically so that you will not have to.
• It will create many highly-complex passwords without you having to do anything.
• Security of these many passwords is handled with just one long and complicated master password that only you know.
• It counters hackers with the same computer science principles that they use against victims.
Many data security studies have concluded that the best passwords are the ones that take human judgment out of the equation. This is because the best kind of passwords are truly randomly generated, and humans tend to not be all that random.
Examples of popular password managers are: LastPass, 1Password, Keeper, and Dashlane.
Password managers do what we should all do to ensure that our online accounts are as secure as they can be from cyber threats and data breaches.
Hayk Saakian is an IT professional who has helped many businesses establish a strong online presence through online marketing and lead generation. He also writes interesting reviews on his website https://www.hayksaakian.com/ about the latest technologies with a particular focus on where tech advancements and a person’s lifestyle and needs meet.