It’s time to talk about passwords for the umpteenth time! The main reason is that in 2020, people still use easier to guess passwords.
The importance of setting unique and strong passwords cannot be emphasized enough in the current digital era. As many services move online, from those offered by governments to others, it is essential to set unique, strong passwords across each online account.
It’s still puzzling that in 2020, you’ll find many people using memorable passwords that don’t take a hacker more than a minute to crack.
In its list of the 200 worst passwords of 2020, the company revealed the most used and most leaked passwords that many individuals still have on their online accounts. These passwords are easy to guess both by humans and machines. Their easy memorability is why they are most prevalent.
In this article, we’ll show you the characteristics of a strong password, how you can set one, and other handy tips that will help you secure your online accounts well.
First, let’s start with the basics.
What is a strong password?
In IT, a password is strong when it’s not easy to guess by other people or machines. That’s what makes a strong password.
Thus, a strong password should have enough characters and should not include things like dictionary words. But no need to sweat about that. Different tools can let you know if a password is strong or not.
But before we dive into that, let’s look at the characteristics of a strong password and why it’s essential to set a strong password.
Read Next: How to stop people from using your Netflix account.
Characteristics of strong passwords
The basic characteristics of a strong password are that it should have;
- A minimum of twelve characters – the longer the password, the better
- Include both letters and numbers
- Uppercase and lowercase letters
- Have at least one unique character like @, ! etc.
- Do not use < or >; they can cause problems in web browsers.
- Eight-character passwords are becoming inefficient. Many experts still recommend at least eight characters, but X-Force Red, IBM Security’s team of veteran hackers, discovered that such passwords are not-so-hard to crack.
If you employ these basic rules while setting your password, it should be strong. The good thing is that most online accounts will indicate your password’s strength while creating a new one.
The Importance of Strong Passwords
Why are strong passwords recommended? The reason is apparent; so that you can prevent attackers from bypassing your devices or online accounts. Unauthorized access can involve severe repercussions. One-way hackers obtain passwords is by scrapping a website’s database that allows users to create accounts.
For instance, if a hacker obtained your PayPal password, he/she could smoothly run your account dry. For businesses, unauthorized access could lead to the loss of private data like trade secrets, which could be sold to competitors for monetary gain.
Read Next: How to keep your Netflix Account Secure.
How to Check the Strength of your Passwords
How do you know if a password is strong? There are different ways. In modern-day websites, you’ll likely be shown a strength meter while setting up a password. If a particular website doesn’t have a password strength meter, you can utilize various online tools available at your disposal. A good example is Dashlane’s security tool.
Note: We recommend using Dashlane's security tool since it guarantees the security of your password entries. Moreover, the platform does not store the entries. Other tools found online could be malicious.
How to set a strong password
Commonplace passwords like 123456 are easily brute-forced. It takes less than a second to crack such a password. Hackers can easily decrypt passwords that include basic letters or numbers.
The first step to creating a strong password is by mixing letters – lowercase and uppercase –, numbers, and characters. The best way to create a strong password is by using a phrase.
For example, “therainbowontheskyisblue.” This password alone(without quotation marks) would take a computer around seven quadrillion years to crack.
By capitalizing several letters to theRainBowOntheSkyiSblUe, Dashlane’s strength meter estimates it would take around one hundred sextillion years. Adding a couple of characters to it makes the password even more robust. That’s how you create a strong password.
And let’s be honest, you can’t remember lots of different unique, strong passwords. And to be secure, you need to have unique passwords across your variety of online accounts.
According to research done by NordPass, an average person has 70-80 passwords. Another analysis done by Dashlane, one of the most popular password managers, revealed that the average user has 90 online accounts, and in the US, that figure stands at 130 – in 2015!
That’s where password managers come in.
Password managers – What You Need To Know
Password managers are software that helps you store your online account credentials in one place, from usernames to passwords. They act as digital vaults for storing login credentials.
Tips for keeping your password secure
Setting a strong password and keeping it secure are two different things. Yes, you can have unique and strong passwords on your account, but if you don’t know how to keep them safe, it doesn’t help.
Here are some tips on how to secure your passwords;
- Change your online passwords regularly – at least annually or, better off, quarterly. And it would be best if you changed it immediately once it’s out in the wild
- Have a backup copy of your online passwords – in case a password manager cloud service fails
- Don’t reuse passwords on different websites
- Use a password manager
- Use false information while setting up security questions
Additional Online Security
Having a strong password is the first step to securing your online accounts. In addition to that, you should also set up multifactor authentication (MFA) on websites that have the feature available. Because in a world where cyber threats are increasing at an alarming rate, passwords alone cannot offer enough security.
Phone numbers can be used for 2FA but are not recommended by security experts considering the high number of SIM Swap scams.
App-based authentication is, therefore, gaining popularity. You can use authentication apps like Authy, Google Authenticator, YobiKey, and others for that.
Most social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow you to set some form of MFA.
Online security is increasingly becoming a priority not only to companies but to individuals as well. The reason being; cyber threats are increasing by the day. We hope these tips will be helpful as you try to secure your online life.