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Choosing and Protecting Passwords

Passwords are a typical kind of authentication and are often the only barrier between you and your data. Attackers have several programs at their disposal to help them guess or crack passwords. However, if you choose good passwords and keep them secret, you can make it difficult for unauthorized people to access your data.

Why do you need strong passwords?

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You probably use a personal identification number (PIN), password, or passphrase every day: from withdrawing money from an ATM or utilizing your debit card at a shop to logging into your email or online retailers. It can be frustrating to know all the combinations of numbers, letters, and words, but these safeguards are essential because hackers pose a real threat to your data. Often, attacks are not specifically targeted at your account but rather use access to your data to launch a more effective attack.

Among the best ways to protect information or physical property is to ensure that only authorized people have access to it. The following step is to verify that the person requesting access is who they say they are. This authentication process is even more critical and challenging in the online world. Passwords are the most common means of authentication, but they only work if they are complex and confidential.

Many systems and services have been successfully cracked due to insecure and inappropriate passwords. Once a system has been compromised, it can be exploited by other unwanted sources.

How to choose good passwords

Avoid common mistakes

Lots of people use passwords that are based on personal info and are easy to remember. However, this also makes it easier for attackers to crack them. Let’s take a four-digit password. Does your password consist of a combination of the month, day, or year of your birthday? Does it contain your address or contact number? Please think of how easy it would be to find a person’s birthday or similar information.

What about your email password – is it a word that you can find in a dictionary? If so, it may be vulnerable to dictionary attacks, i.e., attempts to guess passwords based on common words or phrases.

While deliberately misspelling a word (“daytt” instead of “date”) can provide some protection against dictionary attacks, a better approach is to rely on a set of words and use mnemonic techniques or mnemonics to remember how to decode them. As an example, instead of using the password “hoops”, use “IlTpbb” for “[I] like [T]o[p]lay[b]asket[b]all”. Using lower and upper case letters makes the password more opaque. If you change the above example to “Il!2pBb.” you will get a significantly different password from any in the dictionary.

Length and complexity

The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) has created specific guidelines for strong passwords. According to the NIST guidelines, you should consider using the longest password or passphrase allowed (8 to 64 characters) whenever possible. For example, “Pattern2baseball#4mYmiemale!” would be a strong password; however, it has 28 characters, including upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.

You might need to try different variations of passwords – for example, some applications restrict the length of passwords, and some do not accept spaces or certain special characters. Avoid using common phrases, quotes, and song lyrics.

Dos and don’ts

Once you’ve found a strong, memorable password, it’s easy to reuse it – don’t! Even with a strong password, repeated use puts your account at the same risk as using a weak password. If a hacker guesses your password, they can use the same password to access your other accounts. Use the following techniques to create unique passwords for each of your accounts:

  • Use various passwords for different systems and accounts.
  • Use the longest password or passphrase allowed by the respective password system.
  • Develop mnemonics to remember complex passwords.
  • Consider making use of a password manager to keep track of your passwords.
  • Do not use passwords based on personal information that can be easily retrieved or guessed.
  • Do not use words that can find in the dictionary of any language.

How to protect your passwords

Once you have chosen a password that is easy to remember but difficult for others to guess, please do not write it down or leave it where others can find it. If you write it down and place it on your desk, next to your computer, or worse, tape it to your computer, it will be easily accessible to someone who has physical access to your office.

Don’t tell anybody your passwords, and watch out for attackers trying to trick you through phone calls or email messages asking you to reveal your passwords.

Programs called password managers to offer the ability to create randomly generated passwords for all of your accounts. You then access these strong passwords with a master password. If you use a password manager, be sure to use a secure master password.

Password problems can be caused by the fact that web browsers can store your passwords and online sessions. Depending on your web browser settings, anyone with access to your computer can find out all your passwords and get access to your data. Be sure to log off when using a public computer (at a library, internet café, or even a shared office computer). Prevent using public computers and public Wi-Fi networks to access sensitive accounts, such as bank transactions and emails.

There is no warranty that these techniques will prevent an attacker from finding your password, but they make it more difficult.

Don’t forget security basics

  • Keep your operating system (OS), browsers, and other software up to date.
  • Use and maintain anti-virus and firewall software.
  • Scan your computer regularly to check for spyware (some anti-virus programs include spyware detection).
  • Be careful with email attachments and untrustworthy links.

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