In today’s cyber world security is a must have, however, many go oblivious to their lack there of or believe in principles that are ineffective. With more reliance on the digital world now than ever before, one needs to be proactive with security to prevent being a victim of the next cyber hack attack or at a minimum mitigate the damages.
While some think that passwords must be complex and include uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols to be effective this obscurification adds little if any security to the password. Today’s computers can now easily do the substitution of ‘@’ for ‘a’ or ‘$’ for ‘s’ while adding little time to the cracking attempts. It’s length that makes a password more secure. XKCD does good at graphically explaining this concept for creating long memorable passwords.
Another problem is the use of the same password for more than one site. With the difficulty in remembering passwords it’s not uncommon to use the same or slightly varied versions of a password across all sites, but this introduces the security risk that if one account is compromised then all your accounts are vulnerable to attack. Even though you may have picked one secure password you do not know how other companies and sites store that data. If the password was stored in a database as plain text or un-salted hash then an attacker could compromise accounts quickly should that database ever be hacked.
For the best security all sites should have their own password that is unique, randomly generated, greater than 14 characters, including your traditional upper, lower, number and symbol requirements. Websites should have password like ‘&AuGwW7ML&sBJ6Ga;Jr2hBdah’ or ‘rx97QMYE+Jgf6o9%~jtsL7o;t’ for maximum security. But who could remember that?
A simple solution to managing secure passwords is the use of a password manager. This allows for only having to remember one strong password, like described in the XKCD picture, and increases security by using randomly generated passwords for every site. There are many password managers to chose from on the market. This LifeHacker article explains a the features of a bunch and Part 2 of this topic will include which I chose to use and why.