Passwords: How To Avoid The Risks And Keep Your Information Safe

by Solomon Sephus

Amid growing concerns about cybersecurity, your passwords and personal information are the currency for today’s digital criminals. 

Most of us have a lot of important information added to online services. To access this information, we use passwords, but criminals are always looking for ways to hack into your accounts and steal that information.

Cybersecurity researchers say too often we make it easy for the hackers.

One of the first tactics that hackers will attempt is to try to use common passwords such as “Password,” ”qwerty” and “12345,” according to researchers at The Ohio State University’s cybersecurity office.

You choose your password, but it is not the best decision to choose a password that contains the name of someone or something close to you. Which means passwords made up of the names of family members or pets are out. Social media makes this information much too accessible.

If a hacker targets you, they could attempt to learn your password by searching through these online profiles. Once they find what they are looking for, their next move is to gather information to determine how close you may be to certain family members. From there it’s a matter of trying combinations to guess passwords for your more sensitive online accounts.

Another vulnerability to your personal information comes through a weak password. 

An example of a weak password is a password which only has at least four letters. Passwords with only four characters are easier to guess. 

Hive Systems, a cybersecurity company, recently released an updated table estimating how long it would take for a hacker to use the brute force tactic to gain access to different types of passwords. 

This table created by Hive Systems shows how easy or difficult it is to hack your password (Hive Systems).

The brute force tactic is what a hacker uses when they have run out of options to learn the password. This attack uses every single possible combination of characters in a final attempt at acquiring the password. 

According to the Hive Systems’ 2022 update, passwords with four characters varying in character classes are hacked and gained access almost instantly.

Another effective tool hackers use is called the Dictionary Attack. “In the Dictionary Attack, a computer uses a wordlist (like maybe the entire English dictionary) to try and find a password that works. The computer will simply plug in every word in its wordlist to find a working password,” researchers at Ohio State said in a recent article.

One way to make passwords more secure is to choose a stronger password with a larger number of characters and more complexity. 

An example of a strong password is a password that combines twelve-to-eighteen letters numbers and symbols and has both uppercase and lowercase letters

For that combination, Hive Systems estimated that passwords with these specifications took three years to 467 billion years for hackers to crack.

Other ways you can protect your password is by avoiding reusing passwords on multiple platforms, coming up with security questions and avoiding writing down your password.

If you don’t have the time or are worried about remembering these complex passwords, you could use a password manager. Cybersecurity researchers say these programs help create security passwords and protect them from prying eyes.  Some of the top-rated password managers are Bitwarden, Keeper, Zoho Vault, and Dashlane along with many more.

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