Hackers succeed because weak passwords fail. For example, some sources say it only takes 17 minutes for a computer to crack 1000 weak passwords. Many people use simple passwords, such as “1234” or “letmein.” Or, people use security information that is easy to uncover. It is estimated that 50 percent of all passwords are considered weak. A weak password is like locking your front door with a piece of duct tape. Your email and other accounts need strong protection so you can protect your personal, financial and business interests.
Here are some options for making your password stronger: The first is two-factor authentication. Many credit card companies, email accounts and other services now require this. With two-factor authentication, a user confirms their identity by providing two different components. For example, when you log in from a computer that your bank does not recognize, you may be asked to retrieve a code or series of numbers from a text message. The bank uses your password and username along with your phone number to confirm it really is you logging in. Many credit card companies, email accounts and other services now require some form of two-factor authentication. If you have the option to use some form of two-factor or multi-factor authentication, use it. It might seem like a big hassle going through multiple steps to access an online account, but it will seem like a vacation compared to having your account compromised.
The second tip is to use devise a password with strong elements that can’t be guessed or easily discovered through brute-force methods. Try a mnemonic phrase. For instance, a woman I know takes the first line of a prayer she says every day and uses the first letter of each of the first 10 words of the prayer. Or, you can use goal setting passwords: If your goal is to run every day, then try something like “Run3v3ryd@y.” Trying to stop drinking soda? How about “N0m0r3s0d@.” The key here is to assign symbols for letters in your goal or phrase. Each time you use your password you are reinforcing a goal or passion instead of straining to remember a random password.
If you don’t want to try and remember a slew of complicated passwords, you can also use a password manager. Password managers will help you create and store strong passwords, usually for a small yearly fee. This excellent Lifehacker article lists five of the best-regarded password managers. The one drawback is when you need to log in from a computer that is not your own.
Last but not least: Do NOT use the same password. When you use a password across multiple accounts, you are increasing the risk of all of those accounts getting compromised. If one account password is known, hackers can and will use your email and that password on popular sites. It’s much easier to minimize the damage from one account being hacked than it is to deal with multiple accounts.
Of course, you can take all the precautions you want when it comes to password security, but if you click on a link in an email you don’t recognize, you may be downloading malware on your computer that reads every keystroke and relays your password to a hacker. Make sure sure to run malware and antivirus software on your computers to detect threats. A little prevention and security awareness goes a long way to keeping you and your data safe.
Just remember: someday you may want to run for President, so protect your emails!
Robert Stanlick, Vice President