“I’ve been hacked.”
It’s an admission that most of us have seen all too many times on social media, in the news, and in other places. As the world sequesters more and more of itself into digital space, crime follows suit. In response, citizens of the internet need to bring the same care and concern they show for locking their front doors as they do with their business accounts, information, and anything else that a hacker or scammer might try to procure. Unless you want to see your company at the heart of the next big hacking scandal, then that care needs to start at a base level: using strong passwords.
How to create a strong password
1. Create a unique password for every account
It stands to reason that the same key shouldn’t be used for every single thing in your life. If you lose that key, or if someone steals it, then you’re in for a world of trouble. The same goes for passwords. Creating a unique password for every account you have – email, corporate network, whatever, can greatly increase your online security.
2. Make your password long
The more complicated the password, the harder it will be for someone who isn’t you to guess. That means making your passwords long. To create a strong password, you should aim to come up with something that is 12 characters or longer.1
3. Use a phrase with shortcuts and acronyms
A strong password can keep criminals out of your accounts, but a password that’s a little too strong can keep you out of your accounts. When picking a password, go for something that will be easy enough to remember. Using a phrase you know that can be shortened or reduced to an acronym is very helpful.2
4. Use passwords with common elements
Again, a password you can’t remember isn’t going to do you a whole lot of good. Avoid using uncommon special characters like æ or ø. You might remember that you used a special character, but you could have a hard time remembering exactly which.2
5. Avoid common dictionary words
Words that are commonplace are easy to guess, simple as that. Avoid using common dictionary words in your passwords and they’ll be stronger. The more unique your password, the better.
6. Don’t make your password too personal
Your password might shield your accounts from falling into the wrong hands, but that doesn’t mean the wrong eyes haven’t already seen you. A lot of your information is already available online. Information such as your birthday, your home state, the names of your friends and pets, and whatever else you’ve chosen to share can be found on your public social media accounts, or by a quick online search for news articles, company reports, etc. Avoid using any of this information in your passwords, as would-be trespassers will likely use it to guess.
7. Avoid using common patterns
Just as you should avoid common words, common patterns should be kept out of your passwords too. Ending your password with “123” might be tempting, but it doesn’t offer much additional protection to your account.
Tips for keeping your passwords secure
Your rock-solid, impossible to guess password looks really good until it ends up in a hacker’s hands. Creating a strong password is only half the battle – keeping it secure is equally important. Most people won’t go around bragging about their super strong password online or posting it, but better passwords than yours have failed in the past, and password security is sometimes the culprit. Keep these security tips in mind for protecting your password.
Never share your password
It goes without saying but sharing your password should be avoided. Even if you’re only passing it to a coworker, that’s one more person to serve as an outlet for password theft. The more people have your password, the more chances unsavory individuals have to steal it.
Don’t write down your password
Writing your password down might feel like a safe move since paper is removed from the digital space where hacks occur, but it’s still unwise. Consider this: if someone breaks into your home and finds your password sheet, they could snatch it, leave without taking anything else, and end up committing a robbery that doesn’t just impact you, but your entire company.
Enable multi-factor authentication
One of the best ways to combat evolving thieves is to evolve with them. Multi-factor authentication means to use more than the one step of entering your password to gain access to your account. Other factors could include an additional security code that is texted uniquely to you every time you seek access, your fingerprint, your voice, or others.2
How can you learn more?
An extra minute spent on your password security can truly mean the difference between a normal day at the office and a major security breach with ramifications at every level of your company. It’s easy to get lackadaisical about something so seemingly trivial, but it’s that lax attitude criminals prey on every day. Employers should instruct their companies on the importance of using strong passwords and employees must be diligent in creating them. To learn more and gain access to resources that can help you better protect yourself and your company, check out the Nationwide Business Solutions Center.
1https://resources.infosecinstitute.com/topic/password-security-complexity-vs-length/, Accessed September 2021.
2https://www.cmu.edu/iso/news/2019/how-to-create-strong-passwords.html, Accessed September 2021.