Password Security – How Safe Are Your Online Accounts?

At the beginning of the technological revolution passwords were somewhat a novelty, with ‘password’ or ‘pass’ making up the majority of access codes into computer systems.  Now, with more and more accounts open (email, shopping, banks, apps, news) it’s  imperative  that our security is at the highest level possible to protect our systems and, ultimately, our assets.

Here, we’ll consider what can be done to give ourselves more protection.

Rule Number 1 – different passwords for different accounts

A 2015 poll by Moneysavingexpert showed only 12% of their survey used different passwords for different accounts.  This means if a hacker can obtain the details for one of your accounts then they are able to access them all.  You will likely be thinking that you won’t be able to remember ten different passwords, but there are now password management apps, that can securely remember all of your passwords in one place.

Rule Number 2 – use more than a single word

Get Safe Online suggests using three random words with special characters and capital letters mixed in.  According to their website, these are the ‘don’ts’ when creating a password:

    • Use your username, actual name or business name.
    • Family members’ or pets’ names.
    • Your or family birthdays.
    • Favourite football or F1 team or other words easy to work out with a little background knowledge.
    • The word ‘password’.
    • Numerical sequences.
    • A single commonplace dictionary word, which could be cracked by common hacking programs.
    • When choosing numerical passcodes or PINs, do not use ascending or descending numbers (for example 4321 or 12345), duplicated numbers (such as 1111) or easily recognisable keypad patterns (such as 14789 or 2580).

Rule Number 3 – be careful with personal data

Taking into account it’s common to use pet names, football teams etc… as basis for passwords, just think how much of this can be found out on your social media account.  Having a photo folder of ‘Fido’ and pictures of celebrating your 30th birthday in February 2018 makes fido1988  a very possible password.  Likewise, the fact your hometown is disclosed on your page could mean this will be used by potential hackers.

The Consequences

Let’s take a look at what this all means in real terms.  Firstly, by cracking your password the perpetrator now has access to your emails (maybe ask a close relative for an urgent sum of money?), your bank (to transfer funds elsewhere), your payment method on shopping websites (to order goods to a different address) or the information for ID theft (to set up credit cards in your name).  All of a sudden a poor choice of password has left you thousands of pounds in debt.

Whilst this all seems like logical advice, it’s important we stay protected.  You wouldn’t leave your house unlocked, so why leave your cyber door open?