In today’s digital age, password security is essential to protecting our personal and professional online accounts. Personal and sensitive information is frequently stored online, making it more crucial than ever to ensure that our passwords are robust and secure. However, compromised passwords are all too common, leading to unauthorised access, financial loss, identity theft, damage to reputation, legal consequences, and the spread of malware. According to a Spycloud Survey, cybercriminals exploited 1.7 billion login credentials (including passwords) in 2021.
In this blog post, we delve into the importance of password security and best practices for crafting robust and secure passwords, empowering you to stay one step ahead of hackers.
The Importance of Password Security
Passwords protect our computers, smartphones, online accounts and financial information. Although we may feel we are appropriately protected, a password is sometimes the only thing standing in the way of hackers and our valuable data. It’s therefore essential to to prioritise password security by crafting robust, resilient passwords that effectively shield us from potential cyber attacks.
How Passwords Get Hacked
A study from the University of Maryland found that hackers can crack a password every 39 seconds on average. There are several common methods by which passwords end up being stolen or compromised, placing password security and sensitive data at risk. These include:
Malware Infection: Malicious software, or malware, can be specifically designed to steal data, such as passwords, usernames, and email addresses. When unsuspecting users input this information, the malware promptly transmits it to the cybercriminals orchestrating the operation.
Data Breach: A data breach transpires when unauthorised individuals gain access to a database containing login credentials. Breaches can stem from various sources, including security misconfigurations, email misdeliveries, targeted hacking, or other system vulnerabilities. Once in possession of this stolen data, cybercriminals can exploit it for nefarious purposes.
Phishing: Phishing remains a prevalent tactic for cybercriminals seeking to steal passwords. This technique deceives users into divulging their login information through deceptive emails or websites. According to the 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), phishing ranks among the top four methods for breaching data and obtaining login credentials.
Accidental Exposure and Insider Threats: It’s not uncommon for employees to share passwords with colleagues, or to retain account access even after leaving a company. These instances of accidental password exposure or unauthorised access can pave the way for cyber attacks and data breaches. In fact, the 2022 DBIR discovered that a staggering 82% of attacks involve human error.
Crafting Unbreakable Passwords
Improve Password Strength
To create a truly strong password, consider the following components to boost password strength:
a. Length: Aim for a minimum of 12 characters.
b. Complexity: Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
c. Unpredictability: Avoid using personal information, dictionary words, or easily guessable phrases.
Use Password Managers
Password managers are an excellent tool for generating and storing complex, unique passwords. These applications not only help you create unbreakable passwords but also ensure that you don’t have to remember them all. A master password is used to encrypt and access your password vault.
Implementing Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security by requiring users to verify their identity through a secondary means, such as a text message or fingerprint scan. This extra step can significantly reduce the likelihood of a successful cyber attack.
Don’t Write Passwords Down
Writing down passwords can allow unauthorised access to your accounts or system if the written password falls into the wrong hands. Using the same password across multiple accounts increases the risk of multiple account exposure.
Don’t Lose Passwords Over Insecure Connections
Passwords can be stolen if you use an insecure internet connection to log into your online accounts. This common method is used to steal data, including passwords, when people use public internet connections. You should only connect using a secure site, i.e., HTTPS, or use a VPN.
Don’t Share Passwords
A survey from Ponemon Institute found that 51% of employees share passwords with co-workers to access business accounts. Sharing passwords means that those passwords are out of your control. Control is critical in maintaining security.
Never Repeat Passwords
Repeating the same password across multiple accounts exposes you to the dangers of credential stuffing attacks, a technique often employed by cybercriminals. Ensuring that each account has a unique and strong password significantly minimises the risk and enhances your overall password security.
Crafting unbreakable passwords is a critical aspect of maintaining password security in today’s interconnected world. By following the guidelines outlined above and staying informed about the latest cyber security trends, you can protect your online accounts from cybercriminals.