By Vicki A. Marking
Here’s a quick test. What do these seemingly random alphanumerical groupings have in common?
That is a list of the top ten passwords used in 2018. Recognize any of these? If you don’t, you’re not necessarily in the clear, but your chance of becoming compromised or hacked is far less than someone who uses one of these passwords. If you do recognize these, you’re certainly testing your luck.
These days, creating and remembering passwords has become increasingly more challenging. If we had only one device that required a password, we could probably manage it quite easily.
But with every device we use, most programs we need to do our jobs, and sites that require you to change your password every few months, it is estimated that the average person must memorize up to 191 different passwords. No wonder we often choose to take shortcuts.
The problem is over 80 percent of hacks are due to compromised credentials, otherwise known as stolen username and password information that are often traded on the Dark Web. In fact, in one month alone in 2018, Microsoft blocked 1.3 million attempts to steal password data, which would have led to dangerous phishing attacks and other hacking attempts.
These harrowing statistics are why you hear the recommendations:
• Never use the same password twice (IT managers report 73 percent of all passwords used are duplicated in multiple applications, opening up multiple avenues for attack).
• Never write down your passwords.
• Never share your passwords with anyone else.
• Never use real words or known information about yourself in your passwords.
• Avoid commonly used passwords (50 percent of all attacks involved the top 25 most used passwords).
• Pay attention to that last stat: 50 percent of all attacks involved the top 25 most used passwords. See what I meant when I said if you recognized anything on that list, you’re testing your luck?
Following all these rules and regulations, you’ll end up with passwords that are about 16 characters long, impossible to memorize, and, unfortunately, are still completely hackable (much more difficult, of course, but where there is a will, there is a way). So, what do we do now?
The first shortcut is a password manager. You can store all your passwords in one place. This makes remembering all your passwords much easier, but there you’re not out of the woods yet. The password manager is also protected by a password. If you’re utilizing a software like this, make sure that this password is especially complex, so that hackers aren’t even tempted, especially in the case of a brute force attack. If possible, turn on multi-factor authentication, especially on your password manager.
Many sites utilize multi-factor authentication. This extra layer of protection connects to your phone, email, or other authentication source, rather than relying solely on a password. We recommend enabling multi-factor authentication wherever possible. The only caveat here is make sure your secondary authentication source is equally secured with a strong password. No sense in double protecting yourself with a wide-open source.
Random Password Generators
These sites come up with secure passwords for you, but are typically a random jumble of letters, number, and symbols that are darn near impossible to memorize. If you’ve got a strong memory, this might be a good starting point, but if you’re like most of us, this may be more challenging than it’s worth.
Craft the best password
Use a “password phrase” in place of random letters, numbers and symbols. Create something that’s easy for you to remember, but has no meaning to anyone else.
There’s no time like the present to get started and change your easy-to-hack passwords to something safer, because it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Make sure to change them regularly. Never write them down, especially on a post-it note stuck to your computer. But most of all, make passwords an important part of your life. Don’t consider them a nuisance or a thorn in your side. Challenge yourself to be more creative each time you create one. Beat the hackers at their own game by making your password too time intensive to try and crack, and you’ll reduce your chance of your information showing up on the dark web.
By Vicki A. Marking