With the proliferation of online access, weak passwords are the ultimate prize for hackers. Sophisticated software and extensive databases of common passwords create a virtual key ring of possibilities to crack logins. According to Live Consulting, a hacker can run 420 billion simple, lower case, 8 character password combinations in a minute. And if you think you are being clever by just replacing s’s with $ signs and a’s with @ symbols, hackers are already on to us. So how do your passwords stack up?
IT consultants agree that passwords should be at least 10-12 characters long. The longer the better. Use a mix of letters (upper and lowercase), numbers and symbols. Avoid personal information (hackers use social media too) and common words. And don’t re-use passwords. Even a complex password can become compromised if it is leaked on just one website.
Consider using a pass-phrase of random words, numbers and symbols. Something that looks random, but has significance to you. Or pick a song lyric or sentence that you can remember and use the first few letters from each word. For example “My friend Sam Jones is really a very nice guy” turns into Mf$J1ravng.
IT consultants also suggest using a password manager and two factor authentication. Password managers store your passwords but are only accessible by providing a master password. The master password is never stored in the password manager’s system. Adding an additional factor for logging in can increase your online security by more than 10 times.