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How Secure are your Passwords?

With IT Consultancy as one of our key services, we come across IT fraud most weeks. Last week we saw yet another example at a company with insufficient backups and poor user passwords resulting in the company losing most of their data. They came to us in desperate need for help and we are doing just that. However, after the event, it is much harder, more expensive and no guarantees of recovering everything.

The biggest risk to businesses and users is hackers breaking into computers by guessing passwords. We do understand that it is difficult to remember passwords, but simple and commonly used passwords enable intruders to easily gain access and control a computing device. Secure passwords that are difficult to guess can make it nearly impossible for common hackers to break into a machine or system, this will force them to find other easier targets.

The more complex the password, the lower the likelihood that you or your company will fall victim to an unwanted intrusion.

Please remember that this does not just apply to work environment, but to every part of life these days. Unauthorised access is a risk for anyone who uses a computer or smart device. Users risk the loss of work documents, emails, music and photos as well as bank account information, money and even their identity.

We could spend hours telling you about the various risks and how to reduce them but one of the key ways you can help yourself and your company is to make your passwords more secure.

Here is what you should do to reduce the risks:

  • Make your passwords long – Ensure your passwords are at least 10 characters long. We often use 12+ characters
  • Make your passwords complex – Get into the habit of using uppercase, lowercase, symbols (such as commas and percent signs) and numbers in your passwords. Long and complex passwords require a lot more effort for a hacker to break
  • Do not write down your password. Would you lock your front door and put the key on a hook outside the door or under the door mat?
  • Never use the same password for two or more systems. If a hacker breaks one, they will most certainly try the same password on your other systems.
  • Update and change your passwords regularly

One of the concerns most of us have about complex passwords is the fear of forgetting them, especially when we have so many to remember. Naturally, you should try to think of something that will be easy for you to remember. One of the techniques we use is to turn a sentence or phrase into something that we can easily remember but is very hard for others to understand. For example pick two or three random words that should never go together but are easy for you to remember, then use a combination of uppercase and lower case letters, replacing letters such as an ‘i’ to ‘!’ and ‘g’ to a ‘9’, use ‘4’ instead of ‘for’ and add a symbol or two in between. This might sound hard to start with but once you are used to it, you will find yourself creating some very complex passwords that you can easily remember.

Please do note that whilst passwords are extremely important in the fight against cyber-crime, they are only a part of the solution. The focus here was on passwords, however data backups are also a MUST, alongside keeping your devices up to date with security fixes and updates which are also critical. If you put the most secure lock on your door but have an open window, you are still at risk.

Do something about it now. Go ahead, take a few minutes and make your passwords more secure. They might just stop you or your company from becoming the next cyber-crime victim.