How Secure Are Your Passwords?

Posted on 9th June 2017

Hands grabbing a laptop containing a cyber security password warning

Whilst working with different clients and meeting small business owners on my travels I see different attitudes towards cyber security.  As I'm a Virtual Assistant (VA) I would not claim to be an expert on cyber security, but I've learned a lot along the way.

We hear increasingly of hackers breaking into computer systems.  Automated systems are used in the first instance and, once in, the credentials are passed to a human hacker for further investigation.

Your passwords are the keys to your online world, both professional and private, and good, strong passwords are therefore essential, in the same way as you use a good, strong lock to your office and home. 

So what makes a strong password?

A combination of upper and lower case letters
A selection of numbers
If allowed, at least one special character or symbol (such as #, !, ?, > etc.)
Ideally not a word that appears in a dictionary

Take a look at the difference a special character makes!

The closer your password is to a real word, the less secure it is.  Unfortunately, it's often the easy passwords to remember which are the easiest to be cracked, as hackers use brute force to work through different combinations of letters and words in the dictionary until they break in.  

Test how strong your passwords are here.

Use a different password for every application

Think about it.  For most services, you need two things to get in:  a username and a password.  But your username is usually your email address.  How often do you give that out to people?  Perhaps the answer is to consider setting up an email address to use purely for your login credentials?  So this brings us back to the password, and if one platform gets hacked, the hackers can use your email to find out where else you are present online. 

unique and secure password should increase your security.  Using a different password for each application not only limits the damage in the event of a security breach but also increases the likelihood of any compensation if the security lapse is at the provider's end. 

Where possible, also set up two-step authentication.  This means, after entering your password, you receive a code by text to enter into the platform too.

So how do you think of a really secure password?

You don't!

There are many online password generators.  For extra security, I would tend to use one on a site on which I'm not registered so there is nothing to link me back to that site. 

So how do you remember all those passwords?

You don't!

I have, however, heard of a couple solutions recommended:

Microsoft Word, Excel and One Note all have password encryption functionality.

Personally, however, I prefer a password vault.  LastPass and KeePass tend to be the popular ones. Whatever you use, just ensure it has encryption.  Many of these apps also generate passwords too.  

So now you just need to remember the one, secure password.  That's better! If possible, however, I'd certainly recommend setting up a recovery method, just in case...!

A board full of sticky notes, waiting for a Virtual Assistant at KL Secretarial Services to transcribe into something more orderly

These, useful though they may be, are not a good substitute for a password vault, but you knew that already!!

Hopefully this has provided 'food for thought' but please do consult an IT professional before relying on my observations!

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