One of the best ways to protect your data from nosy cybercriminals is to use a unique, strong password for each of your online accounts. But considering how many accounts the average person owns these days — from social networking to online banking accounts — this is easier said than done. Before long, you’ll have lost track of which password goes with which username.
Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed that 80 percent of hacking-related data breaches occurred because of weak passwords. This proves that although difficult, using robust passwords is crucial, especially if they’re meant to protect sensitive business data.
What are the characteristics of a strong password?
A good password is one that third parties would have a hard time guessing. It must, therefore, have these traits:
- Long. Some sources recommend a minimum of eight characters, but others will tell you to go for at least 12.
- Mixed. The password must be a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters (when allowed). Letters must also be a combination of upper- and lowercase characters.
- Unrecognizable. Ideally, the password must not be your name or a word you’d normally find in a dictionary. It must also not be a phrase made up of known words.
- Unpredictable. Some people use numbers and special characters to substitute letters in their passwords. For example, many use special characters and numbers like “@” and “8” in place of “a” and “B,” respectively. These substitutions are predictable and should be avoided.
How do you create a good password?
That said, the problem with passwords that satisfy these requirements is that they’re often hard to remember. Committing just one to memory is already a challenge — imagine memorizing several more for your other online accounts. To resolve this dilemma and make good passwords you can actually remember, you can use these tactics:
#1. Use a sentence
Most people take a word or two and combine them to create a seemingly formidable password. But considering how much password-hacking tools and strategies have evolved these days, this may not work as well as it did a few years ago.
This tactic involves taking a random but easy-to-remember sentence that contains a number and, if possible, special characters. For example, you can use the sentence, “I got $50 for mowing the lawn at #221B, Baker Street.”
Just take the first letter of every word in the sentence, as well as the numbers and special characters. You’ll get “Ig$50fmtla#221BBS,” which has 17 random characters. As long as you can remember the sentence you used, you’re sure to never forget your password.
#2. Use the Diceware method
This method involves the use of four randomly chosen words strung together into a single password. The words must not make sense together and be unfamiliar. Thus, common phrases like “the odd one out” and grammatical phrases like “my favorite blue car” are not recommended.
Something like “bell front paper shoe” makes for a good example. The fact that these words don’t make grammatical sense makes them, strangely enough, easier to remember. If you find it hard to come up with a random combination of words, you can use the tool on the Diceware website.
Once you have your four words, you can make them even harder to guess. You can do this by adding special characters or variations in the letters’ case. For instance, you can choose to capitalize the third letter of each word and replace the spaces with alternating “#” and “@” symbols. This means you’ll get “beLl#frOnt@paPer#shOe@” after the substitution. You can apply any pattern you want, as long as it’s random and easy for you to remember.
Are there any tools that can help?
A good tool to have is a password manager. This helps you create complex passwords and stores them away from prying eyes. Your passwords are encrypted to make them unreadable to third parties and can be retrieved easily should you need them.
But bear in mind that not all password managers are created equal. You need to select one that’s secure and has a proven track record of reliability. It must also be easy to use.
Tech Squared can offer recommendations on password managers and other tools that best match your company’s needs and budget. With our years of experience in cybersecurity, we have what it takes to ensure that your business and its data are protected from any cyberthreat.
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