It seems that there is a security threat or leak in the news almost every week. The majority of these leaks tend to revolve around account information and passwords being stolen and released on the Internet for anyone to view. In truth, most of the passwords released are secure, but not 100% secure. Anyone with a powerful enough computer and the right tools can crack almost any security measure. The only thing you can really do is come up with strong passwords.
If you want to minimize the chances of your password being hacked, here are five things you should NOT do.
1. Don’t pick short passwords
While short passwords are easier to remember, they are also easier and quicker to hack. The most common way to hack passwords is by using brute force: Developing a list of every possible password, then trying this list with a username.
Using a mid-range computer like the one many have on their desk, with a normal Internet connection, you can develop a list of all potential passwords astonishingly quickly. For example it would take 11.9 seconds to generate a list of all possible passwords using five lowercase characters (a,b,c,d,etc.) only. It will take about 2.15 hours to develop a list of all possible passwords using five of any computer character. Once a hacker has the list, they just have to try every potential password with your user name.
On the other hand, a list of all 8 character passwords with at least one special character (!,@,%,etc.) and one capital letter would take this computer 2.14 centuries to develop. In other words, the longer the password, the harder it will be to hack. That being said, longer passwords aren’t impossible to hack, they just take more time. So, most hackers will usually go after the shorter passwords first.
2. Don’t use the same password
The way most hackers work is that they assume users have the same password for different accounts. If they can get one password, it’s as simple as looking through that account’s information for any related accounts and trying the original password with the other accounts. If one of these happens to be your email where you have kept bank information, you will likely see your bank account drained.
It’s therefore important to use a different password for every online account. They key here is to try and use a password that’s as different as possible. Don’t just add a number or character onto the end of a word. If you have trouble remembering all of your passwords, try using a password manager like LastPass.
3. Don’t use words from the dictionary or all numbers
This article published last year on ZDnet highlights the 25 most popular passwords. Notice that more than 15 contain words from the dictionary, and most of the rest are strings of common numbers. To have a secure password, most security experts agree that you should not use words from the dictionary or number combinations that are beside each other (e.g., 1234).
4. Don’t use standard number substitutions
Some users have passwords where they replace letters with a number that looks similar, for example: h31lo (hello). Most new password hacking tools actually have combinations like this built in and will try a normal word, followed by replacing letters with similar numbers. It’s best to avoid this.
5. Don’t use available information as a password
What we mean by this is using information that can be easily found on the Internet. For example, doing a quick search for your name will likely return your email address and social media profiles. If you have pictures of your kids, spouse, pets, family, their dates of birth, etc. on your Facebook profile and have put their names in captions, it’s possible for a hacker to see this (assuming the pictures are shared with the public).
You can bet that they will try these names as your password. You would be surprised with the amount of personal information on the web. We suggest searching for yourself using your email address(s), social media profile names, etc. and seeing what information can be found. If your passwords are close to what you find, it would be a good idea to change them immediately.
There are numerous things you can do to minimize the chance that your passwords are stolen and accounts hacked.