It Is Time to Start Trusting the Password Again
Digital security has never been more important, even for those of us who own small businesses or just want to use the home computer with confidence. It seems like just about every month there’s a story on the news about some hacker causing problems. If it’s not our actual government getting victimized, it’s a major corporation, two parties you’d think could keep themselves safe. In today’s business world, the password has a bad reputation, but it is not all that warranted.
How Passwords Got a Bad Name
Many people assume passwords aren’t good enough anymore. It’s easy to understand why. Hackers are becoming more and more determined. Their tactics can range from sophisticated to using brute force.
In light of this kind of enemy, it’s hard to believe a simple password is going to be enough to hold back their onslaught. The truth, though, is that passwords only got a bad name because people were using bad passwords.
People still expect doors to keep out intruders, right? Of course they do. You have one on your home and you probably have a good-sized lock to go along with it. You may have also added a high-tech security system too, in case that first line of defense is breached.
Just because you hear about someone’s lock getting picked doesn’t mean you immediately got rid of your door or lived in fear it wouldn’t be good enough. Well, this is how you should look at passwords too. No, you can’t just use your birthday and assume that will keep hackers at bay. That doesn’t mean the concept of passwords needs to be thrown out the window though.
Instead, get smart about protecting yourself. Let’s look at some of your many options for doing so.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a long time coming. As the name suggests, it only lets a user log in under a username if it meet several requirements first. You can choose how many credentials are necessary, but two is the bare minimum. Options for credentials include:
- A password
- A physical token
- Biometric verification
Combined, these credentials make for a password that can’t be so easily compromised. It’s possible that someone writes their password down and it ends up in the wrong hands. It’s possible to lose a token. Biometric verification would be pretty difficult to hack though. Use one or more of these and your system is going to be ironclad.
You have to remember that a lot of hackers are just in this for the sake of mischief. If you put something like an MFA password in their way, they’ll quickly lose interest and move on to another target.
Many of the websites you probably use on a daily basis have already gotten on board with MFA. While they don’t require it, you can opt to have your account secured through MFA measures. These include sites like:
Otherwise, there is plenty of MFA software out there that can be used to lock your computer, sensitive files and more.
Create Complex Passwords
That being said, there’s no reason to make life easy on a hacker. Always create passwords that are complex. This will make guessing it nearly impossible. To keep your password beyond the reach of malicious parties, make sure yours has at least 12 characters, even though your system requirement is probably much lower. Long passwords are easy to remember when you pick a sentence, like a favorite song lyric or the full name of your favorite athlete.
Then add in numbers. If you choose your favorite athlete, use the number from their jersey (e.g., “Michael23Jordan”). Otherwise, swap out vowels for numbers in your lyric of choice (e.g., “W3W1llR0ckY0u”).
Strong passwords can be created by thinking up easy sentences to remember that include numbers and then withdrawing the vowels. “In 12th grade, my pet Rex died at 11” becomes “n12grdmptRxddt11.” That’s 16 characters and easy enough to remember (especially with practice).
Usually, it’s a good idea to recycle. However, as we’ve touched on, hackers are devious and determined. This is why you can’t risk recycling any of your passwords. Choose one for each sign-in you have. The last thing you want is for someone to get a hold of one password and then leverage that into breaking into all your other systems too.
Use a Password Manager
Of course, many of us have too many passwords and recycling can become too tempting to forgo. No matter how many memorable sentences you think up, eventually your mental faculties are going to be pushed too far.
Fortunately, you can use a password manager. These platforms will store all your passwords in one place and then lock the door with encryption. As you’d expect, you then lock your password manager using MFA.
Don’t let today’s headlines scare you too much. Passwords are still the best way to keep yourself safe online. While you absolutely have to take the necessary precautions to safeguard your accounts, the above methods make it extremely easy to do so.