Are you living under the illusion you have created an impenetrable password? It only takes a few seconds for hackers to break through the strongest password across various devices and websites.
Advances in technology constantly open you up to security risks, whether you are using the internet for business or pleasure. A 7-character password that would once have taken years to crack now takes hours, or minutes.
Some people make a hacker’s job simple by creating passwords that are easy to crack. While some do this out of plain ignorance, others are quite aware but damn the odds. When using the internet, there are a number of things you need to know.
The Different Ways Hackers Gain Access To Your Password
It is important to understand the importance of a secure password. The compromise to your account can come in various ways:
The hacker has made you the target: some people just want a peek into your personal life.
You are a victim of a brute-force attack: this occurs when a hacker tries to gain access to a group of user accounts.
Data breach: sometimes huge companies tell us there has been a data breach. This leads to the compromise of (usually) many user accounts.
There are several ways you can strengthen your password. The two-step-verification process is promoted by many websites, knowing that alphanumeric passwords are no longer enough to keep internet users secure. With two-step verification, even when the hacker has your password, they cannot access your account unless they have your phone as well.
Here are some tips to help you secure your internet presence.
1. Don’t keep one password for too long
Many of us are in the habit of using one password for years at a time. Experts advise you should change your password as regularly as possible. The important question you need to ask yourself when you want to change your password is, “how hard will a hacker work to crack it?”
You should ideally change things up every three months. When you change your password often, you enhance its security and make it harder for hackers to gain unauthorized access to your account.
2. It takes less time to crack your password than you think
A 7-character password made up of lower case letters will take only 0.29 milliseconds to crack. By contrast, it will take about 200 years to crack a 12-character password made up of upper and lower case characters.
This shows the importance of extending your password by just a few characters - even if it means repeating the word you wrote the first time or spelling it backward. Even as you extend the amount of characters, it is important to avoid using common names which are easy to decipher.
3. Strengthen your password by blending diverse characters
Randomness is the key to preventing password theft. There are two techniques hackers use when trying to hack into your account;
They draw up a list of commonly used passwords.
They make a random guess.
The longer and more random your password is, the less likely their guess will find it. When attackers steal your password from the database of a website you are using, changing the password is the only way out. This further emphasizes the need to change your password regularly.
4. Use different passwords for different websites
The single most important security tip when it comes to your password is to use a different password for each website. This cuts down the amount of damage that can be done if there is a breach of security.
It is like having a house where one key can open all the locks. The moment someone gets hold of your key, they can access everything. But if each room has a different key, the intruder can only damage the room they’re in.
5. Fictionalize your mother’s maiden name
Hackers can reset your password and lock you out of your own account if they get hold of your mother’s maiden name. Many websites have a password recovery system that allows you to recover your password when you forget them. If you can provide answers to the security questions, you automatically reset the password.
The answer to your security question should just be as secret as your password. If hackers are able to guess the answer they can reset your password. Randomness can be an issue in this case, because the questions the website asks are things people often know about - your birthplace, the name of your relatives etc.
The good news is the website will not compel you to provide the right answer. Just like your password, provide long and random answers to the security questions. This makes it difficult for hackers to try to reset your password.
6. Avoid using simple passwords
A simple password consists of lowercase letters alone. A complex password combines lower and upper case, as well as numbers and special characters. Avoid using a simple password for your accounts.
For example, a password like “greatigth” will take about four hours to crack, while something similar like “GreatigtH3” will take about six months to crack - and you should have changed your password twice in that time anyway.
7. Your account may have been hacked recently
As frightening as this may sound, there are times when hackers gain access to your account without your knowledge. Thankfully, there are some red flags to tell you your account has been compromised.
The most obvious is when your friends or contacts begin to complain they are receiving spam messages from you, or you find a lot of emails in your sent folder, or the recent login location does not match your actual location. When you notice this, immediately reset your password to forestall any further damage.
8. Ignore urgent password change messages
There are times when you will receive a nagging password change message. It is best to ignore such messages altogether. Even if you must change your password, ignore following the link that came with the email sent to you. Head to the website and change your password there. Links are often fraudulent, and lead to fake versions of websites that look very similar to the original.
Check the email address of the sender to be sure it came from the company. Phishing accounts mimic the original website but with close observation, you can always tell the difference.
Desist from behaviors that expose your password
What is the point of coming up with a complex password when you write it down for someone to copy? Never write down your password. If it becomes a must to write your password down, use encrypted language.
For example, if your password is “6LionhyertP!” instead of writing it in full, write it as “6********!”. Obviously, you still need to remember the alphabets or numbers behind the asterisks.
If you are having a hard time coming up with long password sequences, you can employ the help of password managers like 1Password, Dashlane, and LastPass. Password managers generate strong passwords, and remember them for you. They fill them into websites for you, saving you the stress of typing them.
Which of these points got you thinking about your password? If you found this helpful, please share with your friends.