All of us have various passwords to access our digital identities, online work and private life communications. However, with multiple passwords required daily, many people rely on memorable words or dates or even ‘password’ itself. Using easy-to-remember passwords may save time, but it also makes personal data more accessible to hackers.
With most of us under lockdown at home during this period, it is highly likely that most of us will spend our time online. As such, there is no time like the present for to review your password habits and address the need for strong password hygiene. Enterprises today, too, will benefit from better password security education – as most data breaches and cyber attacks are the result of weak password security.
The sudden increase in the number of remote workers has been accompanied by a rise in phishing scams and spam attacks as hackers ruthlessly use the COVID-19 crisis to their advantage. Not only do workers have to adapt to remote working, but the IT teams of the organisations they work formust contend with tailoring current IT systems to fit with a home environment. It is at times like these – more so than usual – that it is vitally important that simple security measures are followed.
However, do note that the simplest measures, such as password protection, can often prove the most effective. Regularly updating passwords, having different ones for different applications stored in a password manager, and two-factor authentication are all practical steps towards making it much more difficult for hackers to infiltrate information.
Tips and tricks for tightening password hygiene
To ensure both your personal and work-related systems, and the sensitive data residing within them, remains safe, try the following:
- Use a different, complex password for every website. This reduces your risk of credential stuffing attacks, where hackers take login details harvested from breached websites to log into users’ accounts on other, unaffected sites. If you have a password manager, password generation will be an easy process as it will automatically create lengthy, unique passwords for each site. Remember that the longer the password, the longer it takes for hackers to crack it, thus preventing successful brute force attacks.
- Use a password manager but check to ensure your preferred option is reliable, safe and updated as there have been cases of breaches in the past.
- Avoid common practices like adding an exclamation point at the end, including phrases associated with family or pets, or using consecutive running numbers. Hackers use these common patterns to guess your password.
- For security questions that assist in password recovery, be sure to give inaccurate answers so hackers cannot mine that information from snooping on you online. For instance, your mother’s maiden name. This information can be easily found through social media searching, this would be easy to identify, so choose a made up name only you would know.
- Implement multi-factor authentication wherever available to create extra hurdles for cybercriminals.
Passwords are fundamental to our personal and professional security and privacy. However, many individuals still seem numb to the risks that weak passwords pose – continuing to use memorable or similar passwords out of convenience. Despite our busy schedules, it is always good to recognise the importance of strengthening password defences. By following a few simple password practices, we can boost our online security and keep ourselves secure from external threats.