It’s still surprising that no matter how many data breaches and massive hacks take place in recent history, many professionals still don’t have strong password protection. Passwords are our very first line of defense against devastating data loss. But many employees simply don’t understand how to do better when it comes to managing their passwords. Sensitive data calls for the commitment to privacy, and the best path forward is to increase the protection provided by your passwords. Here’s how to up your game starting today.
The Longer the Better
Although the requirements for most accounts are rarely more than 6 characters, the longer your password is the more difficult it is to compromise. Security experts at McAfee say to avoid using personal information including your name, age, birthdate, children’s names, pet’s names, even favorite color or song. Any password that makes sense can be guessed by a savvy hacker with a little insider information (such as what is often readily available on social media). But it’s really the length of your password that will make it exponentially more difficult to hack. Whether through brute force (software-based hacks) or by guessing, once you get into the 12-15 character range, it becomes much harder for a hacker to get into your account.
While it is certainly common practice to use the same password across multiple accounts, such accounts are much easier for hackers to gain access to. Victims of the major LinkedIn hack saw the damage this can cause as their corporate accounts for DropBox were then hacked using the same information stolen from LinkedIn. Those passwords and identity information are often shared among hackers (or sold to the highest bidder). So, if one account is hacked, anything else with that same password is immediately put at risk. Reusing passwords for email, banking, corporate, and social media accounts can quickly lead to identity theft, corporate espionage, and other potentially devastating occurrences. The bottom line is to use a different password for every one of your professional accounts. Using a password manager can help make that easier.
Use a Password Manager
If you start to feel overwhelmed by the number of different, and longer length passwords you have floating around, password managers are an excellent tool to help you keep track of your passwords and reduce the risk of reusing passwords at the same time. It’s much less risky to use a password manager than taking the chance of a duplicate password being exposed and making several accounts vulnerable. A good password manager creates strong, unique passwords for all of your accounts, then stores those passwords in your browser (both on a desktop and on mobile) so you don’t have to remember them all. That means that if one of your passwords does get caught up in a data breach, criminals won’t have the keys to the rest of your online services. This reduces your need to generate easy to remember but hard to guess 15 character length passwords for all your various accounts. You just need to remember the master key to access your manager. Reliable password managers include FastPass and 1Password, but there are several more on the market. Do your research and make sure you pick a well-reputed distributer so you know your accounts are in safe hands.