It is almost impossible to function without needing some sort of password, whether it is a password for your email, your financial institution’s website, or just to log into you work computer. With the current prevalence of account hacking, it is more important than ever to make sure that your passwords – and by extension, your accounts – are secure.
How Passwords Get Stolen and Accounts Get Hacked
There are two main ways that passwords are stolen and accounts are compromised: key-logging infections and trial-and-error password entry.
This method for account hacking is not as common as many would think. Key-logging infections are very bad infections that actually log what keys you press and place the results into a file that is sent back to the infection’s creator. If you were to type into your internet browser your financial institution’s website and then log in, they will have all that information in the file that gets sent back to them. This type of account compromise is on the downturn due to most financial institutions having several layers of protection for logging into your account from an unusual computer. However, this does not stop the hackers from getting into other accounts, such as your email or Facebook account.
This is the most common method for compromising accounts. The trial-and-error method for hacking into accounts is exactly what it sounds like. An individual will somehow gain your email address. They will then try to log into your email account using common passwords. According to a recent study, about 50% of all passwords are based on family member’s names, birthdays, pet’s names, and actual words. These are known as “dictionary” passwords: passwords made of words that can be found in the dictionary.
The Multiple-Password Method for Security
About 75% of us use the same password for everything, ranging from our emails, to our social networking sites, to our financial institutions. That means that if someone gets your one password, they can potentially have access to all your accounts! Using the multiple-password method will give you an added level of security; if someone manages to get one password, you don’t have to worry that all your accounts will be compromised!
First Tier Password: This is a password used for accounts where you probably don’t want people pretending they are you. Some examples of these types of accounts are Twitter, Facebook, and other social website accounts. If someone gets hold of this password, they can potentially damage relationships you have with your contacts on those sites, and possibly convince them to click on links that will infect their computers. This password should be longer – 6-8 characters – and should use at least one special character and number. The special character and number should not be placed at the beginning or end of the password. It should also not be a real word found in a dictionary.
Second Tier Password: This is a password used for email accounts and possibly your cell phone. Treat this password as a master key, since information regarding your other accounts can sometimes be found in your email. This password should be long – 8-12 characters – and should have several numbers and special characters in it. This password should never be an actual word, and it should be very different from your First Tier password.
Third Tier Password: This is a password that is only used for your banking and financial institution websites. This should be the Fort Knox of all your passwords, and it should never be used for anything else. This password should be long – 8-12 characters – and should have several numbers and special characters in it. This password should never be an actual word, and it should be drastically different from all your other passwords.
How Do I Remember All These Passwords?
Trying to remember all your different passwords can be a bit daunting. One method is to have your password actually be a sentence. Instead of writing out the whole sentence, as in ‘The quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog,’ you would use the first letter of each word of the sentence, as in ‘Tqrfj0t1bd’. You’ll notice that for the words ‘over’ and ‘lazy’ the letters were replaced with numbers that resemble the letters. While this password is rather secure, it’s not as secure as it could be.
Another method is to use a type of password storage software. We recommend that if you do choose to go this route, please do your research and make sure the company is both reputable and safe.
Do you think your passwords are safe? Do you have any tips that we missed for creating a good password?