A password is a secret code formed by an array of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols. It allows only you to access the personal information that you’ve stored on your computer or in your online accounts. The “strength” of a password is critical to keep unauthorized persons from accessing your personal information.
Password strength is basically a measure of how easily the password can be cracked, or in other words guessed or derived by a hacker with malicious intent. A strong password makes it almost impossible for other people to crack it and gain access to sensitive information. And if you’re wondering if anyone really sits there trying to guess passwords you’re in for a surprise.
If malicious users steal your password, they can use your name and personal information to open new credit card accounts, share your data, spread viruses to all the people on your address book or pose as you in online transactions. In many cases you would not notice these attacks until it is too late. People make some common mistakes while choosing and protecting their passwords and believe that they are secure from any kind of hacking. Here are some habits to avoid –
- Setting up short and weak passwords – A short password is a weak password because it requires much lesser effort for the hackers to guess your password. Whatever the length of your password, it will be stronger if you use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols (see below).
- Not changing the default password or having very common passwords – most computer users either don’t change their default password or use very common passwords like abc1234, [usersname]1234, [petsname]123, etc. These weak passwords are easy for a smart hacker to crack and are not recommended!
- Using the same password for different accounts – using the same password for different accounts is very convenient, but it also makes the job of a hacker very easy. The hacker only needs to guess one password to get access to all your accounts.
- Not changing the password regularly – even creating a strong password is not enough – Change your passwords regularly. This can help keep malicious users guessing.
- Writing it down on paper– Choose a password that you can remember without assistance. If you write your password down and a thief discovers it, your personal information may be compromised.
The following is a checklist that you can follow to ensure that your password is a “Strong Password”
- Always keep your password long – it should have a minimum of 8 characters and it should be such that it is easy to remember yet hard to guess
- Use a mixture of letters (UpperCASE and lowercase), numbers and special characters (e.g. #, *, %, etc.). Try not to repeat any of these.
- You can also use the help of certain websites such as PassCreator or use a tool such as LastPass to help.
- Don’t use commonly known or easily guessed words or phrases (e.g. your name, your pet’s name or your spouse’s name) as a password or a component of a password, e.g. Linda123. Passwords like this are weak because they are very easy to guess.