Have You Changed Your Passwords Lately? by Larry Gray

Increasingly, there are reports we keep hearing about computer security breach nightmares. Hackers across the world are constantly trying to find new ways to hack into secure online sites and systems and steal your identity, commit online financial fraud, and so on. You may have firsthand knowledge of the frustration of being hacked on some level, even if only on a social media site such as Facebook or Twitter.

A recent survey conducted in Australia took a poll of 1000 citizens on password security. The results were published in September 2011 and here is what they found:

  • 77% of Australians have more than three online passwords
  • 90% of Australians are confident others wouldn’t be able to guess their online passwords
  • 60% of Australians use the same password across more than once of their online accounts
  • 48% of Australians only change their password when required by a system
  • 42% of Australians have shared their password with someone they know
  • 36% remain logged into their online accounts at all times

A similar survey was conducted in the UK in 2009 and showed similar results:

  • 66% of users use the same password for more than one website
  • 46% of users use the same 2-3 passwords for every website
  • 45% of users use passwords made up only of dictionary words or names

I am sure many of you are reading this and thinking these statistics sound very familiar. The reality is that having these habits leaves you an open target vulnerable to an online security breach. Here are a few tips you can put in action right away to make your online accounts more secure:

    1. Change your password often. It’s recommended you do this about every other month.

 

    1. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. If one website is compromised and a hacker has access to your password, they will attempt that same login and password across many popular websites to see what they can get from you.

 

    1. Avoid using names, important dates, dictionary words, or a string of consecutive numbers or letters. These are easily guessed  not only by automated tools, but by hackers themselves.

 

    1. Use strong, long, unique passwords. A good strategy is to use a combination of letters (both upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols. Using a password with 8 characters or more lessens your chances of being hacked dramatically:

 

# of Characters

Time it take to crack

5

Instantly

6

4 sec

7

17 min 30 sec

8

18 hours 30 min

9

48 days

 

    1. When your browser asks to save or remember your passwords, always say “no”. While this is a very convenient feature, it also means anyone who uses your computer has instant access to all of your accounts. Also, many web browsers have inherent security flaws that leave you wide open to any potential hackers.

 

    1. Don’t share your password with anyone. Although this might seem obvious, you never know what might happen.

 

    1. Never email your password. Email isn’t secure, so it’s a best practice to avoid sending anything confidential via email, including passwords.

 

  1. Password management tools are a good idea. These allow you to store all your passwords in a very secure, encrypted site. These systems are inexpensive or free, and many have apps you can download to your smartphone.

Cloud computing and the direction of technology in general means there is an ever-increasing abundance of information stored online. Start building habits now that will keep your information secure and protect you from being the next victim of an online attack.

About the Author: Larry Gray is the CEO of Fixed Fee IT, an Information Technology (IT) Service Firm. Fixed Fee IT actively manages, supports, and monitors our clients’ servers, hardware, software, security, and backup – all for a fixed monthly fee. Larry has over 25 years of experience in IT Services.

Phone: 503-635-7414 | Email: info@fixedfeeit.com | Website: www.fixedfeeit.com

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