Most people know that having a secure password is a necessity in today’s online world. Even the largest corporations may be attacked by vicious hackers that gain access to sensitive client data like credit card numbers or contact information. In the case of such a largescale event there is probably not much you can do to prevent it, but for 99% of our security needs, a strong password virtually eliminates any risk.
So where to start? Well, you’ll need to consider your memory cards, hard drive and, of course, the national anthem:
Choose a password that is considered strong. It should consist of a minimum of 8 characters, mixing upper and lower case, numbers, and if the site allows it use symbols (like @, #, $, %, etc.) Preferably, do not use words that appear in a dictionary, but random letters and numbers. The more letters in the password the more protected it is from so called “brute force” attacks. Brute force is essentially a program that tries every combination possible to crack your password. But with a longer string of letters it’s usually not worth the time to brute force it.
- Use the first letters of a phrase to remember your password. It can be a slogan, or song lyrics, as long as you can remember it. For example: “God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen!” would be the password “GsogQLlonQGstQ!”. Even if this password does not contain numbers, the length makes it secure.
- Now that you have a secure password for one site, generate a unique password for each of the sites you frequent. If you use the same phrase for all places, and a potential hacker cracks your password, you are going to have a bad time.
- Use two-step verification when possible; this means that a site requires an additional step to log in. It can be in the form of a generated code on your phone or a token device (as used in many online banking systems) that you have to enter after logging in. This makes sure that no one can log in to your account without physically having access to the token or phone.
- If you are traveling with your laptop, it’s recommended to have a strong password for your operating system. This is to prevent anyone else but the owner from logging in to your computer. And if you want to go the extra mile in securing your equipment, encrypting your hard drive and memory cards is a good way to prevent unauthorized access.
If you access a multitude of sites daily, this process can quickly become cumbersome and perhaps you are tempted to use a password manager. This is fine as long as your security requirements are not critical, but for ironclad security it should probably be avoided. If you use such software make sure that your master password follows the rules mentioned above.