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How Secure is Your Password? First Steps to Safeguarding Your Data

By Eze Castle Integration | Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Security, security, security. It’s all anyone can talk about. From spear-phishing schemes to cyber extortion plots, hackers are reaching new levels of sophistication in their attempts to confiscate sensitive material and, in many cases, access monetary funds. But while we’ve trained ourselves to be more aware of these elaborate cybersecurity schemes, we often forget that the gateway to much of our information is only secured by one teeny, tiny little feature: a password.
Whether you’re safeguarding your work PC or personal mobile device, password security is the first and arguably most important step you can take to protect your sensitive information. And unfortunately, users often don’t put the necessary effort into creating strong, secure passwords, thereby leaving that sensitive information in peril and potentially easily accessed by intelligent hackers.

Password creation sounds like a simple task, but it is far from it, especially in today’s security-heightened marketplace.
Following are five hallmarks of a strong password to help get you started:

  1. Diversity. You’ve probably heard this before, but are you actually practicing it? Don’t use the same password for multiple portals/access points. Every time you re-use a password, you give a hacker more opportunity to access your critical information. If the same password is used to protect your online banking information, airline reservation booking and retail accounts, for example, a hacker could easily leave your personal finances in shambles. 

  2. Length. Most sites nowadays have requirements in place for password length. And the longer a password is, the more difficult it becomes to crack. Users should aim to create passwords of at least eight (8) characters to better secure confidential information.

  3. Strength. Those 8+ characters, however, should be more than a single word or meaningful string of dates. Weak passwords are simple for hackers to obtain, so it’s imperative that users craft long-tail, thoughtful passwords to securely protect their assets. Combinations of letters (upper and lowercase), numbers and special characters ($, !, #, &) are ideal to use when creating strong passwords. 

  4. Storage. Let’s say you’ve employed the three principles above and crafted unique passwords of at least eight, diverse characters for each of the domains/sites/devices you utilize. How on earth do you expect to remember all of those different passwords' combinations? It’s not an easy feat, but writing them on a post-it note or in a file marked “Passwords” on your Desktop is not a viable or secure option. You may want to consider using a password management tool, but do your research first. A tool guarded by one master password with access to that much information is a pot of gold for a sophisticated hacker. 

  5. Frequency. Bad news: by the time you get around to finally starting to remember all of your unique passwords, it’s probably time to change them. One of the keys to strong password management is frequency of change, and users should ideally change their passwords at least every 90 days. 

Here are a few password faux pas to avoid:

  • Using personal references, such as your name, family members’ names, birthdates, etc. This information can be easily gleaned from social media sites and other avenues, so it’s best to skip within your passwords.

  • Creating equally easy-to-guess security questions. Your mother’s first name and the name of your high school are also details that can be easily investigated through a quick Google search. You should also avoid using "12345678" or "password"

  • Always starting your password with an uppercase letter or using numbers successively at the end. Apparently, these trends have become predictable, so users should consider user uppercase letters and numbers sporadically throughout the password. 

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This article has been updated and originally written in 2015
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