How Safe Is Your Password
By Mehmood Hanif
While passwords are such a pain to remember, they are the most important aspect of internet account security.
We need passwords for our social media accounts, email accounts, online bank accounts, smartphones and even our ATM cards. If we don’t lock our sensitive details behind passwords, we would end up exposing our data to the bad guys operating from the shadows.
Those data-hungry perpetrators are labeled as hackers, but they are also sometimes known as snoopers and spies. In simple words, these people are cyber criminals, and they want your data to blackmail you for money, settle their personal grudges, or simply spread chaos in the world.
Passwords are the first line of defense (the vanguard), used as a cyber-security measure to keep unwelcomed intruders from accessing our precious online data. However, the vanguard doesn’t seem to be doing its job efficiently as there have been many cases of breaches that involve username and password theft.
Data Breaches Incidents Transpiring on the Internet
Password hacking incidents have been happening ever since the advent of the internet. For instance, in 1998, CERT reported a security breach incident where a list of 186,126 encrypted passwords was gained by an attacker out of which 47,642 passwords were cracked.
Likewise in 2016, a data breach of 200 million Yahoo’s users’ credentials were sold on the Dark Web that included usernames as well as passwords. The data was sold on the Dark Web for around $1,860 USD.
Again in the same year, a vast cache of over 70 million Dropbox accounts were hacked that also included usernames and passwords. How the hack was conducted? Through the illegal access of an employee’s login details.
The incidents mentioned above present only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, if you look around, you will see continuous feeds on password cracking or breaches.
But, What Makes Password Cracking So Common?
It wouldn’t be fair to say that the average internet user is unaware of the data breach risks through passwords. In fact, only 1% of internet users care about their passwords despite knowing that passwords have patterns which can be analyzed and cracked with ease.
Accordingly to a recent study, it is found that 35% of users on the internet use weak passwords. Likewise, another report (an infographic) found that 21% of users use same passwords for over 10 years.
A 2015 story by BBC reported that “password” and “123456” are the two most commonly used passwords on the internet.
All these studies point to only one fact, and that is people show no care towards password selection, weakening the first line of defense that protects the data that is dearest to them.
Now the question is…
How to Create Better Passwords & How to Ensure How Safe It Is
Not long ago, it was believed that you need to use special characters, capital letters or numbers to make passwords strong and impenetrable. However, according to the latest password guidelines of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), your password doesn’t need to comply with all those old-age guidelines to be impenetrable.
In fact, the new guidelines by the NIST reports that you don’t even need to change your password periodically. So, what makes a password safe and secure if it is not period changes or special characters? Passwords that cannot be guessed easily!
If you can come up with the right password that isn’t in the dictionary or that doesn’t make any sense at all, you can say that you are using a strong password. Regardless, you don’t need to throw special characters or periodic changes out of the picture. You can still use those practices to amplify the security of your password, though.
Today, password isn’t the only security layer that guards your online data. You can double the security of your data with two-factor authentication. The feature empowers users to add an extra layer of security. The first layer is the usual password protection, while the second layer protects your data by sending a text or voice call to your mobile that you use to access the account.
There are many online tools where you can check the strength of your password such as the ones provided by Symantec and Kaspersky. However, the real protection of your data starts from you when you take it seriously.
Your password is the key to your online privacy and security. Either reinforce it with the right preventive measures to strength its security or lose your data to criminals who take it as a commodity and make riches out of it!
Mehmood Hanif is digital marketer by profession and a part time journalist. Mehmood loves writing about technology, IoT and online security. Mehmood is also a contributor at TheNextWeb, Geektime and Globalsign.
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