Simple Ways to Secure Your Passwords

The ways in which technology has grown in the last several decades have revolutionized the ease with which we live our lives.  Unlike 20 years ago, when you had to wait for what seemed like an eternity for your clunky desktop computer to boot up just so you could read your email, today you can check it with two taps of a smartphone.  But as our technology gets smarter, so do cybercriminals.  In fact, cybercrime is projected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, a shocking number that’s only going to increase over time.

When you came up with your first password for your computer, chances are you were trying to keep things private from anyone who happened upon your computer while you weren’t around.  In those days, Password123 was perfectly acceptable to keep curious kids from poking around where they shouldn’t.  But now you have to contend with people who are trying to hack their way into your computer from over the internet, and their methods of getting past your cybersecurity are a lot more refined.

Cybercriminals use several tactics to gain access to your passwords.  Phishing is a major way that they attempt to steal your information, usually through text messages or emails that can seem trustworthy but secretly contain malicious content.  Another way is through the use of malware, in which they design malicious software to steal your passwords.

Some hackers even use what’s called a dictionary attack to guess your password, in which they automatically feed a list of commonly-used passwords into the computer system until they hit a match.  Think your password is completely unique?  Think again.  Nordpass analyzed over 275 million passwords and found that only 44% of them were unique.  They even compiled a list of the 200 most common passwords of 2020, and—you guessed it—“123456” topped the list at over 2.5 million users. (If that is your password, please do me a favor and stop reading this article so that you can change it right now).

So how exactly do you ensure the security of your passwords without having to get a degree in cryptography just to sign in to Yahoo?  Here are a couple of tips:

Use A Random Combination Of Three Words

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in the UK has announced that three random words is a more secure choice for your password than some complex variations of numbers and letters.  Their reasoning behind this is because many complex passwords can easily be guessed by criminals using specialist software.  For example, if you’ve ever thought to replace the letter “O” in a word with a zero or the letter “I” with an exclamation point, so have hackers.  They specifically allow for those kinds of patterns in their hacking software, breaking through your security and leaving you defenseless.

The NCSC has launched a campaign called “#thinkrandom” to encourage people to come up with three random words to use for their various passwords.  The first reason why a password consisting of three random words is more secure is that it’s usually longer than a one-word password.  It also has the added benefit of being more unique, because very rarely will people use your exact combination of words for their password.  Lastly, it’s much easier to remember a password like “FishDogRiver” than it is to remember “G5$2d&8*J~7^4”.

Don’t Share Passwords Across Platforms

Another great tip to boost your password security is to have a different password for every platform.  It may be tempting to use the same password for your email, Instagram, and NYT account, but it will leave you much more vulnerable to hacking in the event of a data breach.  If one of your passwords is compromised, then hackers will be able to gain access to every single account that uses that same password.

The three random word strategy is a great way to come up with unique passwords for every site, as one of the three words can potentially be something related to the account you’re using it for (think “AppleRadioMoney” for your bank account password).  Of course, memorizing some of your passwords can be handy, but relying solely on your memory to manage all of your passwords is a terrible strategy if you’re trying to stay one step ahead of hackers.

Use A Password Manager

That brings us to our last tip.  A surprising 53% of people rely on their memory to manage passwords, but this is a surefire way to getting locked out of your account after countless frustrating failed guesses.  A password manager is a miraculous tool for anyone without a photographic memory.  With the luxury of not having to remember any of your passwords off the top of your head, you’ll be free to come up with completely random and unique passwords for every single account you use.

The only password you’ll need to know is the master password to your password manager, as this is what gives you access to your safe of stored information.  Whenever you need to log in to an account, you can use the autofill feature to enter your password from your password manager with the click of a button.  You can also access your password manager across multiple devices, making it that much easier to have the information you need when you need it.

90% of internet users are worried about getting their passwords hacked.  This stress and anxiety around the very real threat of cybercrime can instantly be relieved by upgrading your password security with one of these helpful tips.  Instead of scratching your head trying to remember which Great-Aunt’s name you used as the password for your Amazon account, simply come up with a random three-word combination that you can store in a password manager.  You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to keep your private information secure with just a little bit of effort.
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