We've likely all heard countless times how important it is to create strong passwords, but how many of us actually do it? It turns out 50% of people haven't changed social media passwords in a year or more. 20% have never changed their password at all--EVER--and 25% change their password only when forced to do so 1. Given how important passwords are to our safety both online and offline, these statistics are just downright scary!
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What can a hacker do with my password?
- Access your online accounts, many of which may contain your private information.
- Make bank transfers or request a duplicate copy of your payment cards.
- Send emails in your name, like scam emails to family/coworkers or things that might put your professional reputation at risk.
- Find information that can be used to steal your identity.
- Lock you out of your accounts.
- The possibilities are endless.
It's so easy to go through life believing It'll Never Happen to Me, but the reality is that hackers infiltrate another account on average every 39 seconds 2.
How can I create a secure password?
Given everything that hackers can do with your password, it's important to make sure that your passwords are secure. Here are some things to do when creating a secure password:
Focus on Length
When it comes to passwords, length is very important. Using a password cracker, a 9-character password can be cracked in only 2 minutes. Add another character and your password can be cracked in 2 hours. An 11-character password is cracked in 6 days, but a 12-character password takes a full year to crack. 3
Use Special Characters
When you add special characters to your passwords, they take much longer to crack. That 2-minute time to crack a 9 character password becomes 2 hours. 10-characters becomes one week and 11 characters becomes 2 years to crack. If you're going for the best security possible, make sure that you're using at least 12 characters and including special characters like exclamation points, periods, dollar signs, or percent symbols because this bumps the time needed to crack your password up to 2 centuries. 3
Avoid Using Significant Names and Dates in Your Passwords
We love family and friends, but not in passwords. Names, anniversaries, and birthdays of loved ones - are to be remembered, but in no way related to your passwords. It's the first thing crooks look for in social media profiles and other sites when hacking into accounts.
How Can I Keep My Password Safe?
It's not enough to create a strong password. It's also important to take steps to keep your password safe from things like data breaches and phishing attacks. Here are some things you should do to keep your password secure:
Change Your Passwords Regularly
Create a monthly reminder to change your passwords. Data breaches are rarely made public immediately, and if your password was involved in one that hasn't been made public yet, by changing it regularly, you could avoid the mess that comes along with compromised accounts when criminals use stolen credentials from the data breach.
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Don't Use the Same Passwords For Multiple Accounts
If one account is hacked, if you've used the same (or similar) password for any other accounts that you have, those accounts should be assumed to be compromised as well. Always make sure to use a different password for each account that you have, especially your financial accounts. Consider using a password manager if you aren't sure that you can remember multiple passwords.
Never Share Your Password With Others
Never share your password with others. This includes the support staff for websites that you use. They cannot see your password and should not ask you for your password. They have tools behind the scenes that allow them to help you manage your account without the use of your password.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication When Available
Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for criminals to access your accounts, even if they have your login credentials. It requires that you provide an additional means of verifying your identity before access to your account is provided, such as by entering a security code sent to you by text or email.
Install Browser Protection
Browser protection is among the cutting edge of online safety technology. Products like Guardio scan each of the websites that you visit and extensions that you add to ensure that they're free of malicious code and scams. They catch things like phishing pages and keyloggers that often go unnoticed, even to the savviest individuals. When a malicious site or extension is found, these products block the offending website or extension and let you know why. They also alert you when a website that you're visiting is still too new to be trusted. Browser Protection keeps you safe by stopping threats BEFORE they reach your device, instead of afterward like traditional antivirus solutions.
Activate Live Account Monitoring
While you may be taking steps to stay safe online yourself, this doesn't mean that everyone else is doing the same. The news headlines are full of reports of major websites experiencing data breaches, but only a small number of these breaches are made known to the public. Companies hide breaches every day for fear of the negative attention and loss of business that comes with their violation of customers' trust. Guardio offers account monitoring that can alert you right away if your account information was shared online or on the dark web for criminals to access so that you know to begin taking action to protect yourself right away.