How Strong is Your Password?

If you are like most people, you probably have a number of passwords that you need to remember to log into your computer or access websites such as your online banking, Facebook account, or one of countless others. The more passwords we have, the harder it becomes to keep track of them all. Because of this, most people tend to use very simple passwords or the same password for everything. Although using a simple and easy to remember password, or one password for everything is more convenient and easier to remember, it also poses a major security risk.

Hackers have become very proficient at cracking passwords. They have an arsenal of tools that they use to find out what those passwords are and to get access to information that you wouldn’t want them to have access to. The less complex passwords you use, the easier it is to crack them. If you use the same password for multiple services and the hackers crack that password, they now potentially have access to everything you have password protected. Imagine that your Facebook account password was hacked. The hackers would not only be able to gain access to personal information about you on Facebook, but also by using that same password, they could now access your personal e-mail and even go as far as to access your online banking, among other such sites.

As much as we don’t want to have to remember multiple complex passwords, it has become more and more important that strong, unique passwords are used, as well as different passwords for everything that is password protected. Here are some tips to help keep your accounts secure:

  • Never use personal information such as birthdates, pet’s or spousess name, or any other piece of information that could easily be guessed.
  • Never use words that are found in a dictionary. Common words are easily cracked. Instead, add numbers, capital letters and symbols to those words to make them more complex. (e.g. instead of using “password” as your password you could use P@ssW0rd!)
  • Try using a pass phrase instead of one word. (e.g. use “this is a pass phrase” as your password.
  • Change your passwords frequently.
  • Don’t write your passwords down and leave them where they can be found and don’t share your passwords with anyone.

Fortunately, there are tools available that can help us keep track of all these passwords and keep them secure for us. One such program, KeyPass, which can be found by entering KeyPass into Google, is a free password management tool that allows you to enter all of your passwords into a password protected and encrypted file. KeyPass will keep all of your passwords safe and can be run from a portable flash drive so you can take your passwords with you. You still have to remember the password to get into the KeyPass file, but isn’t having to remember one password better than having to remember all of them?

No matter how many passwords you may have, it is imperative that you exercise good password practices to keep your personal information safe. Remember to keep your passwords complex, secure and that you change them often.

Ryan’s articles can also be seen in Berkshire Business News, published monthly by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.