Password protection is one of the most common security protocols available. By creating a unique password, you are both proving your identity and keeping your personal information safer. However, when every account you have requires a separate password, it can be an overwhelming task. While you should be concerned about the safety of your data, you also want to avoid the frustration of forgetting your password and being blocked from the information you need. However, the benefits of using strong, unique passwords outweigh the occasional inconvenience.
Benefits of Strong Passwords
The main benefit of a strong password is security. Hackers work quickly when they are trying to access accounts. They want to steal as much information as they can in as short a time as possible. This makes an account with a strong password less inviting because cracking the code is much more involved.
A strong password also limits the damage that hackers can do to your personal accounts. A common strategy involves cracking the passwords of less secure sites with limited personal information. The hackers hope that they can use the password from your gym membership app to access information in your online banking account. Strong password protection prevents this situation.
Common Poor Password Practices
When someone is registering an online account, it can be tempting to blaze through the password process. In order to move quickly, there are several poor password practices that people employ.
- Simple passwords: Password-cracking programs start by entering obvious combinations. These are passwords where the user puts no thought into the code such as “password” or “1234567”.
- Repeated passwords: You may think you have such an unbreakable password that you want to use it for all of your accounts. However, this means that if hackers compromise one of your accounts, all of your other accounts are vulnerable.
- Personal information: The number combinations that you are apt to remember easily are the ones that hackers can find. You may have put your birthday or graduation year on public display in a social media account. Your dog’s name may be unusual, but if you share information about your canine friend with the world, its name is a weak password.
The Meaning of a Strong Password
A password is considered strong when it is difficult for a hacker to crack it quickly. Sophisticated algorithms can run through many password combinations in a short time. A password that is long, complex and unique will discourage attempts to break into your accounts.
- Long: The combinations that protect your accounts should be long enough that it would be difficult for a computer program to run through all the possible configurations. The four-digit pin on a bank card has 10,000 possible combinations. This might take some time for a human being to crack, but a computer program with unlimited tries could break it in a few seconds. If you were only using numbers, every character in your password would raise the possible combinations by a power of 10. To stump the algorithms, you want a password that is a minimum of 12 characters long.
- Complex: To increase the challenge of your password, it should have a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. Hacking algorithms look for word and number patterns. By mixing the types of characters, you will break the pattern and keep your information safe.
- Unique: If you have been reusing your passwords, it is time for you to start the work of changing them. Every one of your accounts should have its own password. At the very least, make certain that you have not reused passwords for your financial institutions, social media accounts and any work-related accounts.
Creating a Layered Password
If you want a password that is memorable but strong, you can easily turn a phrase into a layered, complex password. In this process, it is important to note that you should not use personal information that is available online as part of your phrase.
- Pick a phrase that is memorable for you: It should not be a phrase you commonly use on social media accounts. If you are an avid runner you might choose a phrase like, “Running 26.2 Rocks!”
- Replace letters with numbers and symbols: Remove the spaces. Then, you can put symbols and numbers in the place of some of the letters. Runn1ng26.2R0ck$!
- Include a mix of letter cases: Finally, you want both lower and uppercase letters that are not in a clear pattern. Algorithms know how to look for common patterns like camelCase or PascalCase. Runn1NG26.2R0cK$!
Now, you have a password that you can remember while challenging the algorithms hackers use.
Employing a Password Manager
When you consider the number of accounts you need to protect, coming up with a properly layered password is a time-consuming task. Even if you are able to decide on a memorable phrase, there are just too many accounts that need passwords. A password manager is a helpful tool to keep you safe while you are online. It acts as a database for all of your passwords. Each time you create a new code, it stores it so that you can automatically enter it later. You only need to remember a single password to access the tools of your manager.
Most managers can also do the work of creating complex, layered passwords for your accounts. These will be a string of random numbers, letters and characters. They will not be memorable, but you are relying on the manager to do the memorizing. These machine-generated passwords are especially helpful for accounts you rarely access or that do not hold significant information.
Maintaining an Offline Password List
For critical accounts like your bank account or a work-related account, it can be helpful to keep an offline list of your passwords. Complex passwords are meant to be difficult to remember. You may recall the phrase but not all the detailed changes that make it layered. Keeping a document on a zip drive or even in a physical paper file or journal will allow you to access your information if your hardware fails or you are switching to a new system.
Keeping the Whole System Safe
Cracking passwords is just one of the strategies hackers use to steal information. In addition to using strong passwords, it is important to employ comprehensive security software. Strong passwords will help protect your online accounts. Strong overall security will keep your hardware and network safe from danger.
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