Three things you can implement today to improve your password security
Following Cyber Security Month in October, Kate Neilson outlines three things you can implement today to improve your password security.
Passwords are an integral part of personal and working life. They remain one of the most sought after pieces of information by criminals, because stolen or compromised passwords are often responsible for damaging hacks.
Everyone is aware that passwords should be strong and that you shouldn’t re-use passwords for different accounts. The trouble is, most of us have many online accounts so creating different and strong passwords for all of them (and remembering them) can be difficult.
To keep it simple we have set out three things that you can implement now to improve your password security:
1. Unique and long passwords
It is important to use different unique passwords for each of your accounts to prevent all of them getting hacked if a criminal is successful in accessing one of your accounts. Attackers rely on people using the same password, so will try them across multiple platforms to see if they can access your other accounts.
In addition to a password being unique, it should be long and complex. A way of achieving this is by using three random words or a memorable and quirky phrase such as ‘dancing fish forever’. Then you can substitute special characters to strengthen the password even further ‘danCing_f1sh&Forever’. To make it even more memorable you could, for example, use your favourite line from a song, book or film to make it easier to recall than 25 random characters.
In summary, the main characteristics of a strong password are:
- At least 12 characters long. The longer, the better.
- Contains special characters (numbers, special characters, lowercase and uppercase letters) that are mixed in with the password.
- Unique for each account held.
- Should not be based on personal information.
2. Password managers
With a strong password set up for each of your accounts, they now need to be kept safe and secure from hackers. A secure password manager uses an app on your phone, tablet or computer to generate, store and manage passwords in one safe online account. This allows you to use multiple unique passwords across multiple platforms without having to memorise them or worse, write them down.
All of the passwords for each of your accounts can then be saved into the password manager which will be protected behind a ‘master’ password. This means that whenever you go to login to one of your accounts you can simply use your ‘master’ password and it will auto-fill your saved login details.
In addition to helping remember passwords, they often can notify you if your password appears within a known data hack or if you are re-using the same password across multiple platforms.
3. Two-step verification
Two-step verification (often referred to as 2FA) or multi-factor authentication (also referred to as MFA), means you use a password in addition to one or more other forms of authentication. This can significantly enhance protection to keep your accounts more secure by adding an additional layer of security.
This doesn’t have to be complicated and can happen without you even knowing it, for example by having Apple’s FaceID or Touch ID set up on your iPhone. Another way of achieving this is by using an authenticator app which can generate a one-time code to use in addition to your password.
Using these tips to create strong, memorable passwords will go some way to improving your security. Data breaches are becoming more commonplace so spending the time now to improve your passwords may save you a lot of heartache further down the line.