Do a quick Google search for “password hacking software”, and you will be shocked (and maybe appalled) at how many people sell programs design to crack your passwords and hack your accounts. You’ll also find questions from people around the world asking, “what are the best ways to hack someone’s password?” These are the people you need to protect yourself against.
Here are the top cyber security factors to make a strong password and accessing your accounts:
Depending on the hacking method used, a six-letter password, with no numbers or capital letters (“orange”, for example), may take up to 10 minutes to hack, or as little as 1 second if a fast attack hacking program is being used. By adding extra letters to our password (for example, “orangemarmelade”), it will now take months to hack, and adding numbers and special characters (“Orang3marme!ade”) will take centuries to crack, even using the most powerful hacking software. Put another way, changing “orange” to “oranges” will increase the amount of items a hacking program must search through 26 times, for 26 letters in the alphabet. But substituting a zero for the “o”, “0range” increases it 260 times (26 letters x 10 numbers), and “orange!” increases it up to 8,580 times! (26 letters x 10 numbers x up to 33 special characters).
If it’s in the dictionary, it’s a real word, and it doesn’t belong in your passwords. There is an entire method of password hacking called “dictionary attack” that exploits people’s tendency to use dictionary words in their passwords.
Turn off automatic passwords, auto login, and password storage on your web browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome, etc.) Any password stored in this way can be hacked.
A strong password is no good if you transmit it willy-nilly. Only send sensitive information if you’re on a secure connection. A secure connection will say either “HTTPS” (as opposed to HTTP) or “SFTP” (as opposed to FTP). These connections are encrypted and much more difficult to hack than their counterparts.
There are several password strength meters available online to check the strength of your passwords (make sure the site has https before the web address, not http. Remember, “s” is for “secure”). One slightly different take that I like tells you the time it would take for different speed hacking programs to crack your password. It’s useful information to have, but take it with a grain of salt and make sure to read the note if you use this tool. These are great if you want to confirm the strength of passwords you got from our secure password generator.
The standard recommendation is to change your passwords every 8-12 weeks. If you’re using a good random password generator to create strong passwords all the time, and storing them safely (see #13), then changing passwords regularly is a good security measure. If, however, changing passwords often will just make you go back to weaker, easy to remember passwords, like your pet’s name, don’t bother. It’s better to have a really strong password, and keep it forever, than to have a new weak password every 3 months.