Mastering the art of the password

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Since the Heartbleed data breach, there have been an army of security and IT professionals telling us to change our passwords and usernames for all of our online accounts.

The reason for this is simple – when one website’s security is compromised, it is surprisingly easy to access other accounts from different websites. This is mainly down to a lack of variation in our passwords and usernames.

Most of us are guilty of using the same password and username combinations for numerous accounts because it’s easier; using different security information for each account just makes it harder to remember which one goes with which.

Varying the information we use to log into accounts is essential in keeping our data and information safe and secure, however. Here are some tips I’ve put together for how to create ultra-secure passwords, how to protect them and most importantly, how to remember them!

 

Creating the password/username

1. Don’t use the same password or username for every account – once a hacker has cracked one password, they will then have free reign on all of your online accounts.

2. Create a strong password by using something that is not obviously related to you, (i.e. not your name, birthdate, pets or parents’ names). Try more obscure things that others won’t think of, for example your first partner’s nickname or your grandmother’s cat’s name. If you are stuck for inspiration Symantec’s password generator can create one for you.

3. Most passwords are case sensitive, so use lower and upper case characters, as well as a mix of numbers and symbols and make it more than 8 characters long.

4. Once you’ve created your password, you can use a password checker to test the strength of your password.

 

Protecting your passwords and usernames

1. Limit the number of people who can access your accounts and never give them more information than they need. This may sound like you can’t trust people but the fact is that the more users who can access the files/folders/data you are trying so hard to protect, the more likely it is to be comprised.

2. Lock your computer if you are away from your desk rather than leaving it open for anyone to access. It doesn’t take long to set up an automatic screensaver and password and it makes your computer much more secure.

3. Spam and Phishing emails are becoming more sophisticated and used more frequently by cyber-criminals. The emails often look like they have come from a legitimate company. Never click on a link from an unknown email address and if you aren’t sure, the best thing to do is not to click on the links or attachments and report it to your IT department, who will check and block the sender if necessary.

 

Remembering the password/username

1. Don’t save your details in an unsecured document. This may sound obvious, but when you have so many usernames and passwords to remember it can be tempting to enter them all into an Excel spreadsheet. This document is unsecure and can be accessed easily. If you do want to save a list, then make sure that the document is password protected or encrypted, saved in a secure location and with a filename that isn’t obvious.

2. Password managers are a popular tool for remembering passwords. There are many different options available and some which work with your internet security system such as Norton Internet Safe (comes built-in with Norton Internet Security and Norton 360) and Bitdefender Wallet (available on Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Internet Security and Total Security), both of which are available through Charity Digital Exchange.

3. LastPass and RoboForm are web browser password managers. They encrypt and store your details online and rely on a master password to access your accounts.

4. KeePass is another password manager tool, but it also works offline. Once the software is installed on Microsoft Windows, your passwords are stored in an encrypted database on your computer. With KeePass, it is essential to make sure that you back-up the database.

 

One more thing to consider…

Often people use their smartphones for everything without thinking about security. If you are shopping online, sending emails or checking your online banking on the go, then just as you would on a computer, you want to make sure your login details and internet connection are secure. Mobile banking security software from Norton 360 Multi-device and Kaspersky can help protect your smartphone from viruses and prying eyes.

 

by Andy Man, Office 365 Support Engineer

 

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