No-one wants their online accounts to be hacked – whether it’s an account you use for social media account, email or your internet banking. There’s plenty of advice out there about password security, but the problem is that it often changes. So what really does make a password safe?
I recently heard an online expert reveal a new tip I wasn’t aware of before which makes a lot of sense. I’m going to share it with you here.
Common Password Security Tips
Before we get into this new tip, it’s helpful to review others that are more well-known, as inevitably lots of people “know” how to create safe passwords but don’t do it. Always reminds me of the zen saying – “To know and not to do is not yet to know”.
Here are three common password security tips to remember and implement if you haven’t already done so.
#1. Different Passwords For Different Sites
One of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to password security is using the same password for multiple different sites. I know this is tempting because I used to do it myself – that was before I got hacked.
I should have known there was a problem when my skype account starting sending out dodgy links to my skype contacts. I thought it was just some sort of bug, and hoped that everyone would be able to see they were dodgy links and just delete them.
What I didn’t realise straight away was that someone had hacked into my skype account, and that they would then try the same password on my other accounts for good luck. Unfortunately at the time I was using the same password for several other online accounts, including Facebook. Oops.
I wasn’t online when it happened, but came home to several messages on Facebook from friends telling me it looked like I’d been hacked. My Facebook account had sent out a highly inappropriate message which Facebook had quickly blocked, so I never actually saw it. But anyone who knew anything at all about me (ie my Facebook friends) knew that there’s no way I would have sent out a message like that!
It was only then that I clicked to the fact that someone knew my password. Of course I immediately changed my password on Facebook and Skype, but then I had to go through all of my other accounts online to check where else I’d used that password and change it. Painful process in a way and more than a little bit stressful, but in hindsight it was a blessing in disguise.
Unfortunately most of us wait until disaster strikes before taking action, and in this case luckily for me the disaster wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Being hacked was the catalyst that made me review all of my passwords, and this process has made me much safer and brought far more peace of mind than I ever had before. I only wish I had used different passwords for every site from the start!
#2. Don’t Use Easy-To-Guess Passwords
This is another classic password security tip that everyone knows, yet most people don’t implement. A password that contains your dog’s name, the street you live on, your name or the name of members of your family, your user name, a sequence of numbers like 1234 or a birthday is not safe!!
Most of us use these types of patterns in our passwords for the simple reason that if we don’t do this we’ll never remember our passwords. With so much of our lives spent online these days it’s difficult to imagine how we could function without user names and passwords we can easily remember.
The only solution I’ve found to this is to use a password manager. The idea of a password manager is brilliant. You can set complex passwords you’d never have a hope of remembering, that no-one else would ever guess or hack – robots (or “bots”) included. And you don’t have to try to remember them. You also don’t need to write down your passwords anywhere (pieces of paper can be lost or stolen), or record them in Word or Excel spreadsheets (that can also be lost or hacked into). Sounds like bliss doesn’t it?!
Prior to being hacked I was using LastPass as my password manager. Well, I say I was using LastPass but I wasn’t really utilising it fully. Since the hacking, I’ve been using LastPass much more actively and I have to say it is truly a blessing. Makes life SO much easier, and the best bit still is that it’s free!
There are other password managers that probably do the job just as well as LastPass and it probably doesn’t matter which one you use. The benefits of using a password manager make the decision to use one an absolute no-brainer.
#3. Use Upper Case, Lower Case, Numbers and Symbols
This follows on from the previous tip to make passwords that much more difficult to guess. Just using one number and one symbol can make your passwords much stronger than sticking with letters only, and the more you use the merrier.
There’s no law when you set a password that the capital letters have to be at the start of a word – you’re free to put your capitals wherever you like! Likewise, symbols and numbers can appear wherever you want them to, they don’t have to be at the start or end of your passwords.
One common thing that a lot of people do to disguise their passwords is to use words or names they’ll remember but replace an “e” with a “3”, or an “l” with a “1” and so on. If you’re using common words with these sorts of replacements it isn’t going to take long for a hacker to figure it out. Best not to rely on this idea to keep your passwords secure.
The New Password Security Tip For A Truly Safe Password
So what was this new tip I heard? It’s all about the length of your passwords.
Did you know that an eight character password can be hacked in around two hours? Most sites require passwords that are a minimum of eight characters, and most people don’t set their passwords to be any longer than they need to be. This means a hacker doesn’t have to invest too much time before they can hopefully (for them) access your internet banking or social media accounts.
But here’s the thing: a thirteen character password takes closer to two days to hack! So we have two hours versus two days…big difference!
The real difference here is that there aren’t many hackers who would persevere for two days trying to hack into an account. After all, there are that many prospects out there whose lives they can turn upside down – why spend two days when you can achieve the result in two hours?
How You Can Make Password Security One Less Concern
I know it’s a nuisance revising your passwords, just another thing to add to the to-do list. But consider this: if you were to use a password manager and set all of your passwords using complex patterns and a minimum of thirteen characters just once, you’ll never have to do it again! The old password security tip to change your passwords each month or so is no longer valid; why change a password that is as close to 100% safe as possible?
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