We all use passwords to secure our email, credit card, and social networks accounts as well as accounts we have on various websites. But it appears to be that many people don’t understand why they should use arty-crafty passwords. Also, most of them have no clue how to come up with the right combinations and thus they make the same mistakes over and over again.
Our article will outline the main reasons why you need to use strong passwords and how to get the right ones. Also, we will offer a few tips which will help you to remember your secret phrases.
Why Creating Strong Passwords Is a Must?
Passwords are the digital keys to your online ‘home’ where you keep your private information, including the banking data. Also, they are the keys to your networks of friends and colleagues. And like with real keys, you don’t want them to be stolen.
But there are many thieves on the Internet that are tracking users’ keys to get into their ‘homes’ and rob them. In other words, they do everything possible to hack into social networks and email accounts or other websites. The ultimate goal is to get users’ money.
The essential passwords are the ones you use to log in to your email and social networks. If a hacker gets access to your email account, they can quickly change passwords on the websites you use with the help of “forgot your password?” link. If they break into your social network, they may scam your contacts distributing malware or asking for money.
So, it is vital to have a strong password to protect your private data.
How Can Hackers Compromise Your Password?
Hackers have plenty of ways to crack passwords. Phishing is one of the oldest ones, but it did not disappear because it is still effective. With the help of social engineering techniques, cybercriminals manage to convince users to go to malicious websites, give out their login credentials, including passwords, and even banking information.
Another method is to buy passwords. The dark business of purchasing and selling login information is blossoming. So, if you have been using the same password for ages, you might get in trouble. It is strongly recommended to change passwords from time to time to make sure no one will get them.
Another method for hackers to get your password is to guess it. And they do this based on the personal information you provide in security questions. That is why it would be smart not to include any personal data in your passwords.
A password cracker – heavy artillery to steal your digital key. The program will use millions of combinations of characters repeatedly until it finds the right one to access your account. The method is called a brute-force attack. Some password crackers use filters and masks which help them to get passwords even faster.
Apparently, the shorter your password is, the quicker the program will crack it. In fact, any combination of fewer than nine characters is a weak one. Meanwhile, brute attacks are hardly effective to crack long passwords.
To hack longer combinations, cybercriminals use a so-called dictionary attack where the program will use a prearranged list of words to define your passwords. So, if you use a common word sooner or later, it might be cracked during a dictionary attack. However, you can try an uncommon combination of regular words. This is an excellent way to stay secure.
How to Create a Strong Password?
Now when you know about the ways hackers use to crack passwords, you can easily create secure passwords capable of surviving any attack. Though, be aware of phishing scams because even the strongest password won’t rescue you if you behave thoughtlessly.
Good Passwords Don’t
- Don’t use simple passwords (and yes, widely used word ‘Password’ is particularly bad). Dictionary words and combinations of words are an easy target for password crackers. Professional hackers have dictionary-based systems capable of cracking words and phrases. Thus, nonsense words are much better.
- Don’t use sequential numbers or letters because they will be easily cracked during a brute force attack. “1234” or LastName1234 are not strong password examples. Sophisticated hacking programs will break these combinations within minutes. Think of a random character placement instead.
- Don’t use sequential keyboard paths (like qwerty) either. They are too easy to guess.
- Don’t includeyour personal information such as your name (and even your pet’s name), birth date, phone number or address into your passwords. Hackers will use every piece of information they have about you to crack your passwords.
- Don’t use a password which contains your public information, for example, extracurricular activities you are involved in.
Good Passwords Dos
- Do make your passwords long. They should be at least ten characters long. But the more, the better. In fact, some experts say your password should be at least 14 symbols long. Complex passwords will survive any attack. However, not every website will allow such length.
- Do use different types of characters, the mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. You may even add emoticons. This will work particularly well on the websites which don’t allow using many symbols.
- Do use multiple words, ideally, in a bizarre way. Anything that comes to your mind will do. Consider using numbers between letters. Or make a password out of a sentence using 2-3 first letters of every word in the sentence. Be creative!
- Do use passwords which contain common elements but are customized to different sites. Once again, be as creative as you can.
Some Tips to Make Your Password Easy to Remember
Many people are worried that they may forget their password, especially, if they use many of those for different accounts. Here are some tips to remember your passwords:
- Compose a password which gives you a mental image. The combination may sound quite odd for somebody else but not you.
- Choose a phrase which is dear to you. This can be your favorite music album or a quote from a book. Just make sure no one else knows the phrase.
- Use one strategy for all accounts. For example, remove vowels from favorite phrases, double your password or use some cipher.
How to Keep Your Passwords Secure?
So, you created a strong password for every single account you have. It is long, uses different words, includes weird combinations of letters, numbers, and cases. That is great! But still, it does not guarantee a 100% safety. Here are a few more things you should do to keep your passwords secure:
- Use a password manager. It will remember all the passwords for various accounts of yours but will need you to provide the master password actually to use it.
- Never write your passwords down. This includes your traditional notebook and the one you have on your mobile device. And if you still don’t trust your memory and saved your passwords somewhere, don’t store them where they can be easily found. For instance, hidden folders on your computer, stickers under mouth pad, and so on.
- Don’t save your passwords in computer’s browsers no matter how tempting it looks to access your account quicker.
- Don’t share your passwords with anybody. Yes, this includes your best friend and even spouse – you can’t control their behavior, can you? And trust has nothing to do with it.
- Avoid using the same password for every email account you use or websites containing your sensitive data. The reason is simple: if one of your accounts gets hacked, all the rest are compromised too. Consider creating a unique list of good password ideas to be used to secure various accounts.
- Change your passwords often. As we have said before, this is your way to stay away from password databases sold on the black market.
- Log out of websites when you don’t need them anymore. This will guarantee no one else will get access to your accounts after you leave the computer.
- Use Two-Factor Authentication wherever you can. This will provide additional security to your accounts. Most of the time Two-Factor Authentication foresees either a password or PIN, a fingerprint or voiceprint, a tangible item (for instance, a mobile device for a code to be sent to).