Computer-users often create passwords that are easy to remember. From birthdays and wedding anniversaries to a beloved pet’s name, a handful of key dates, names and special locations stand out.
Those special dates, people, places and pet names might make for wonderful memories. However, easy-to-remember words, names and phrases also make it easy for cybercriminals to steal your passwords.
John Joyce, an owner at CRS Technology Consultants, visited the ABC7 studio recently to share some valuable cybersecurity tips on protecting your passwords. And yes, “passwords” in the plural sense – having just one is a recipe for disaster.
Below is a recap of that interview:
Don’t Make It Easy
People are so afraid of forgetting their passwords that they make them super-easy to remember:
one of the most common passwords is “password.” Another is “123456.”
Throw in easily available clues from social media accounts and other public platforms, and you’ve made it that much easier to break into your electronic accounts.
And that doesn’t even account for artificial intelligence, which is now enabling even more cyber-spying. The company Home Security Heroes found that a 6-character password could be cracked in less than 2 minutes.
“It’s very tempting to make these passwords easy on us,” John said. “But as a result, we the humans end up failing the technology.”
Consequences of Stolen Passwords
Having passwords stolen can be devastating, both personally and professionally. Hackers can access literally every corner of our financial lives – our bank accounts, credit cards, investments portfolios and tax returns.
Transactions with large companies are particularly at risk. These familiar retail giants store data and credit card information from millions of customers. With access to your personal or work email accounts, hackers can convincingly impersonate you and perpetuate additional fraud of your friends, family and coworkers.
Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true steps to securing your passwords. These include the selection of a randomized sequence of letters, numbers and characters safely stored on your device.
“One of the safest passwords is one that you don’t even know,” John said. “That way, you can’t mistakenly hand it over to someone else.”
Password Protection Tips
- Change passwords every 30-90 days.
- Use a complex combination of letters, numbers and symbols, or even an entire sentence. Use at least 12 characters, with upper and lowercase letters.
- Never repeat a password.
- Never use the same password for work and personal-use accounts.
- Don’t just keep the same password and add a new number at the end.
- Create Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on all your accounts. This precaution requires two forms of identity verification to gain access, such as a text confirmation to verify your email access.
- Throw away the yellow sticky note with all your handwritten passwords.