As technology advances, cybercriminals continue to develop ways to hack our online accounts. But the password you choose often determines how easy it is to crack. So, what can you do to make your password as secure as possible?
What Is Password Cracking?
Password cracking is a method commonly used by cybercriminals to hack online accounts. It can also be used for good, but let’s focus on the more malicious side of password cracking here.
A typical password-cracking program will use a list of plaintext words from the dictionary to guess your password and can use an algorithm to guess the password over and over until the correct phrase is achieved. But password cracking can also involve retrieving the password from a network or device. Cracking can take place using a range of methods, such as brute force attacks, phishing, and malware.
Some passwords can be guessed in minutes, while others can take decades, or even centuries to pin down. If the cybercriminal in question knows the length of your password, for example, cracking it can be much easier.
How Do You Make a Secure Password?
But the crack time of your password heavily depends on what you include in it. So, how can you secure your passwords and keep them out of the hands of cybercriminals?
Avoid Personal Information
If someone is trying to guess your password, it’s likely that they’ll first consider terms that are personal to you, such as your pet’s name, your birthday, or house number. While it’s easier to remember passwords with personal information in them, this can pose a security risk. Avoid anything that relates to your life when creating a password.
Use Random Letters and Numbers
Again, it’s much easier to remember your password when it contains memorable words or just words in general. But using real words makes it easier for your password to be cracked. However, if you’re using a random combination of characters, the crack time for your passwords will likely increase significantly. They’re also near-impossible to simply guess.
Use Both Cases
Passwords are case-sensitive. This means that if you type a password in upper case when it was originally created in lower case, you will not be able to log in. While some platforms let you create single-case passwords, many require you to use both cases. This makes your password harder to crack. Simply using a capital letter at the start of your password can increase its security levels.
Use a Mixture of Numbers and Symbols
If you want to take your password security to the next level, then you should consider using numbers and symbols on top of letters. The addition of numbers and symbols makes the password-cracking process longer and more difficult, as it stretches beyond A-Z letters alone. Adding extra numbers and symbols can also increase the password length, which is good news in terms of security. A password should be 12 characters long at the absolute minimum.
Creating Safe Passwords: Additional Tips
Firstly, you shouldn’t constantly reuse passwords across a range of accounts. This is undoubtedly convenient but can pose a huge risk if a cybercriminal gets hold of your password. You can think of repeating your password as having the same key for your home, car, office, etc. If a criminal takes it, there’s a lot that they can access.
You should also follow password recommendations. Some sites require you to follow their password security specifications, while others simply offer tips. It’s important that you don’t ignore these useful suggestions, as they can help protect your password more effectively.
You could also try using a reputable password creation tool if you’re having a hard time coming up with a complex enough phrase on your own. For example, Norton offers a free password generator that provides you with a long, complex phrase that will be very tough to crack.
Password Storage Options
If you want to use complex, secure passwords, chances are you can’t remember each one off the top of your head. Not only is this an unreliable method, but it can often lead to you having to change your password again and again. This is where password storage options come in.
There are many ways that one can store their passwords, but not all are safe. For example, using your notes app to store your passwords is a bad idea, as it is not a security-focused app and can therefore be opened by anyone with access to your phone. The same goes for Word documents and spreadsheets if they’re not locked.
But worry not: there are plenty of safe password storage options out there for you to choose from. One of the most popular choices is password managers. These are apps that store your passwords in a secure form using encryption.
However, these are software-based tools, and are therefore vulnerable to technical malfunctions and cyberattacks. While reputable password managers do what they can to steer clear of cybercriminals, no apps are completely airtight. Even reputable password managers have suffered hacks, such as LastPass.
You can also store your passwords on a USB drive, especially one that is encrypted. If your USB drive is not encrypted, make sure the device you load it on is equipped with a trusty antivirus program.
If you want to keep it old school, using a pen and paper to store your passwords is by no means a terrible idea as long as you’ve got a solid hiding place in mind. You might also want to create a copy to hide in a separate hiding spot in case the original gets damaged.
Regardless of the storage option you choose, make sure that it is not vulnerable to thieve, and is being stored in a secure location if in physical form.
Your Passwords Are the Gateways to Your Accounts
While you can use additional security layers, such as two-factor authentication, to further protect your online accounts, many still use their passwords as a last line of defense. This is why it’s crucial that your password is sufficiently complex so that malicious actors have a harder time cracking it. Even if you do use additional verification layers, it’s still wise to avoid simple, short passwords, as this line of data still plays an important role in the login process.