Keeping Your Identity Safe with More Secure Passwords

Posted by Tobias Eichenseer Thu, 11 Dec 2014 11:20:00 GMT

Every week brings about new reports of yet more hacking incidents. Back in August, The New York Times reported that a Russian crime ring had stolen 1.2 billion username and password combinations in a series of Internet heists affecting 420,000 websites. The reported theft was based on the findings of Hold Security, a Milwaukee firm with a reputation for exposing online security breaches.

In addition to stealing 1.2 billion online passwords, the hackers had also collected 500 million email addresses which, according to Hold Security, have the potential to help engineer other crimes.

Creating More Secure Passwords
The above-mentioned cyber attack shows clearly that passwords and usernames can never be 100% safe. Therefore, you should always choose different secure passwords for your personal (online) accounts. If you suspect that your passwords have been compromised, change them immediately. When setting a new password, ensure that your passwords are strong. The following tips are useful for ensuring the strength of passwords:

1. Use combinations
Use combinations of numbers, letters, upper and lower case, and symbols, such as the hashtag. Some services will not allow you to do all of this, but try to use the most number of combinations. 

2. Choose long passwords
Although the recommended minimum length is 8 characters, choosing a 15-character password is stronger. However, some services limit the amount of characters you may use.

3. Avoid dictionary words
Avoid words that can be found in the dictionary, even if you add symbols and numbers. Some programs are able to crack passwords by going through databases of known words. One trick is to think of a sentence and turn it into an acronym. For instance, “Keeping your identity safe with more secure passwords” becomes “kyiswmsp”.

4. Use different passwords for different accounts
Since individuals can have hundreds of online accounts, it has become increasingly common to share one or two passwords across accounts or use very simple ones, such as children’s names, favorite sports teams or dates of birth. However, it is best to use different passwords for different accounts, especially if a password unlocks features that involve credit card information or other sensitive data.

5. Make use of multiple passwords
Some services, such as Gmail, give you the option of using two passwords in special circumstances – such as using a particular computer or device for the first time. If you have that feature enabled and try to access Gmail from an unrecognized device, the service will send a text message to your phone with a six-digit passcode for verification. For access, the passcode needs to be entered, after which the code will expire. This means that hackers will not be able to access the account without physical possession of your phone. Even though it is optional, and may be considered to be a nuisance, it could potentially save you from damage later on. 

Passwords are the first line of defense in protecting your identity against unauthorized access to your computer. If you think that you must write down your password in order to remember it, ensure that you store it in a safe place, and do not label it as your password.

Hopefully, those 5 tips will help you to protect your passwords from possible future cyber attacks. If you have other tips for creating secure passwords, please go ahead and share them with us in the comments.

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