November 17, 2014
It seems like every few days, there’s a story in the news that tells us another group of hackers stole an insane amount of usernames and passwords.
While there’s a good chance these kinds of digital heists haven’t directly affected you yet, their mere existence should get you thinking about whether your passwords—and those of your employees—are secure.
According to a recent study, average Internet users spend their days toggling among 26 different accounts. Between banking, investments, healthcare, social media, email, e-commerce, student loans, credit cards and more, it’s a wonder that number isn’t even higher.
But the study says people only use five passwords to access all of those accounts. It makes sense: While it may be easy to remember one or even two unique usernames and passwords, how could anyone possibly remember 26?
Unfortunately, studies show that as many as nine out of 10 passwords are vulnerable to hacking. That’s probably because most people don’t put that much thought into the ones they create. This means they do not put much thought into password security.
In order to reduce the risk of having your data compromised, you should develop a proactive password management strategy for both your personal and professional accounts. To do that, consider these four tips:
Get into the habit of changing passwords regularly. The longer you have the same password, the more likely you are to get hacked—it’s a simple numbers game. Most people will tell you to change your passwords every three months. While that rate of change might not make much sense for your situation, no one should keep the same password for three years, for example.
Don’t use anything remotely easy to guess. It’s unlikely Bill Gates uses “Microsoft” as a password. You shouldn’t use something so closely associated with yourself, either.
Use uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Making use of all kinds of characters in your password makes it that much harder to guess. Case in point? Compare “apple” and “appLe328_*”—which one do you think is more secure?
Longer is better. From a purely mathematical perspective, more characters make your password exponentially harder to figure out. There’s even a huge difference between the security of a password that has six characters and one that has seven.
At the end of the day, you can’t afford to have same username and same password for all of your accounts anymore—those days are gone. But by proactively managing your passwords, you’re taking the necessary steps to protect your private data before it’s too late.