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Staying Safe Online: More than a Strong Password

publish date: August 28, 2018

Maintaining strong passwords has been a benchmark of staying secure online since the inception of the internet. As networks become more complex, so do the ways in which we need to protect ourselves. No longer will single passwords suffice, you need to expand your safety measures to the new frontiers of security.

Password Best Practices

While the general best practices for developing a strong password have remained unchanged, some key differences in schools of thought have been developed as well. In a general sense, some practical tips of what not to do have remained constant:

  • Don’t use the same password for all of your logins.
  • Don’t use your network name as your password.
  • Don’t use easy-to-predict personal details for your password (phone number, family members, birthday, pets).
  • Don’t use generic single words that can be found in the dictionary.
  • Don’t store your passwords in a text document or sticky note on your computer.

A long-held bit of common advice for passwords has been to include special characters and spaces as a way to complicate your login. Many people use this technique as a way to keep their password simple, maybe one word that they then apply special characters to enhance. This isn’t wise – as there are easily available hacking tools that can guess millions of possible password combinations in seconds.

Many experts now see password length as being a key factor in password safety. Instead of short, complex passwords, we recommend you use a longer phrase. This could be the opening line to your favorite movie (but not a phrase that is famous), something you always say to a family member or significant other, or just a series of words that you will be able to remember. What’s important to remember is that every additional character you add to your password, the more difficult it will be for password-cracking software to decipher.

Password Managers

One reason many people fail to use best practices for online passwords is the manual hassle it is to maintain the adequate number of passwords at the right length for multiple accounts. Really, it’s a matter of convenience vs. security and many people unwisely choose the former.

This fact brings the topic of password managers into the conversation. Password managers are programs that run on your PC or in the cloud and actively store your passwords, and enable you to log into any of your accounts quickly.  By using a password manager you only need to remember one password for the manager program while having multiple ones for all of your different logins. For this reason, online password managers have risen in popularity as a way to provide both the convenience of having only one password yet the security of many.

Two-Factor Authentication

While you can follow the standard and widely accepted guidance of creating a strong password, you can no longer rely on that alone to protect yourself online. For this reason, more online software companies are now requiring two-factor authentication.  As hacking tools become more sophisticated, it is becoming too important to do without.

So, what exactly is two-factor authentication?  Two-factor is an additional step to ensure that the person logging into an account is the person who owns the account.  It means that you have two of the three types of authentication…something you know (like a password), something you have (like a randomly generated code from an app), or something you are (like fingerprint or facial recognition).   This technique of combining the online world of passwords with a physical variable, like your phone or fingerprint, makes it much more difficult for hackers to access your accounts.

The first step to maintaining online security will always be to create a long and unique password. More importantly, you need to create more than one password for your various accounts – look into password managers if this will make it easier to execute this step. As technology continues to advance, you can’t stop there; adding another layer of security with a two-factor authentication is not only recommended, it has become vital to your security.

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