Last week 3 prominent websites revealed that passwords to log into their respective accounts were stolen. It was also reported but not confirmed that presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Hotmail account was hacked as well. When you add to the fact that there are people who use the same passwords for each website they set up an account for, there is more than ample reason to be concerned. Keep in mind even the strongest password would not have protected you from the LinkedIn and eHarmony hacks. This is because the files containing passwords were hacked. You need to do what you can to protect your online accounts from being hacked.
So you may ask how do you have a password that is difficult to hack? I said earlier that there are those who use the same password for everything. You have separate keys for your home, car, office, etc. You should also have a different password for all of your accounts. If you were to have the same key for your home, car, and office, someone would only need to get that one key to have access to all. The same concept is true for passwords. A person gets that one password and they have the key to all.
Your password needs to have at least 1 of the following: Upper case letter, numeric character and at least one special character (*,$,@). How long should your password be? Your password should be a minimum of 8-12 characters. I personally would opt for the latter. A few years ago, a computer professional using the name of John P. wrote how quickly he could crack a password based upon the password length and types of characters used while on a computer. For 3 characters it was 0.86 seconds using all types of characters (uppercase, lowercase, numbers, characters) and .02 seconds using only lowercase characters in your password. For 8 characters the times were 2.10 centuries and 2.42 days respectively. The assumption is that you were not using a word in the dictionary. Going from 8 to 9 characters increased the time to 20 millennia and 2.07 months respectively. And yes, your password should not contain words in any language.
So how do we create a secure password? Think of a sentence that you can remember. For example “My Dog Was Born in 2011.” With that sentence we can create a password “Mdwbi2011!” This password represents the sentence by using the first letter in each word, adding “2011” and then adding an exclamation at the end. We capitalize the letter “M” since it is the first word of the sentence. As mentioned, we do not want to use the same password for each account. So what do we do to create a unique password for each account. Most will suggest adding a prefix prior to the acronym password noted above. To be different, add at the end the first three characters of the account. For example using Facebook, your password would be “Mdwbi2011!fac”
By using the example above as a basis for creating passwords for the sites you use, you can greatly reduce the chance that your password will be hacked as your passwords will be much more secure and much harder to break.
While we are on the subject of passwords, it is easy and convenient to enable the option to remember passwords. This will enable anyone using the computer to log onto the site without knowing your password. Especially when using a laptop, you should disable this option whenever it is given. It is another layer in staying secure. Further I have worked with clients who leave their list of passwords on the same desk as their computer in full view of all. I have heard stories of relatives, housekeepers and others copying these to access their sites and get information they would not have gotten otherwise. If you are keeping a list of passwords, keep it in a safe place but not such a safe place that you forget where you put it.
If you have questions regarding password security or other technology issues I can be reached at (917) 572-3468.