Hello everyone! I’m Derek and I’m here to talk about everyone’s favorite part about using a computer. Passwords! We have to come up with new ones all the time, and they just keep getting more and more complex. Why do we need so many passwords, and why is it important to take it seriously?
While passwords are a vital component of system security, they can be cracked or broken relatively easily. Password cracking is the process of figuring out or breaking passwords in order to gain unauthorized entrance to a system or account. It is much easier than most users would think.
When you think of someone trying to break one of your passwords, you might think that someone knows your email address and they are trying over and over with random words or phrases they think would mean something to you. But this is not what password cracking is.
Passwords can be cracked in a variety of different ways. The simplest is the use of a word list or dictionary program to break the password by brute force. These programs compare lists of words or character combination against password until they find a match.
These cracking programs can get on your computer through viruses that allow the hacker to remotely run the dictionary program, and it can try hundreds of random passwords in the time it takes you to type your real password once. The saving grace is that if your password is complex enough, it would take too long to crack your password to make it worth the hacker’s time. Even though the cracking program can work that fast, there’s a LOT of combinations of letters to try.
So, what is a good password? A good password is one that contains all types of characters that your keyboard offers to increase the possibilities of what it could be. Some operating systems allow control characters, alt characters, and spaces to be used in passwords. As a general rule the following character sets should all be included in every password:
- uppercase letters such as A, B, C;
- lowercase letters such as a, b,c;
- numerals such as 1, 2, 3;
- special characters such as $, ?, &; and
- alt characters such as µ, £, Æ. (Here is a link on what alt characters are, these are for the most advanced passwords and not always compatible with everything)
Ok so that’s what a password can have in it, but how are we supposed to remember something so ridiculously complex? Well, the best thing you can do is come up with a pneumonic device to relate to a seemingly random set of letters and numbers. Such as:
I really hope the Green Bay Packers win the super bowl in 2017! Translates to: IrhtGBPwtsbi2017!
So there I have a mixture of lower and uppercase letters, numbers, and the exclamation point counts as a special character. That’s a pretty good password!
With that being said, there is always the concern that someone can find out your passwords. Maybe you accidently say it out loud, or write it down and lose paper. For those who are concerned about keeping their most important data as secure as possible, there are solutions beyond just having a password!
This is called two-factor authentication, and what that means is that after you type a password, your website or application will then ask for a code that it sends you. It could email you, text you, or even require that you put a usb device into your computer just to log in. Many online services offer two-factor authentication such as: Google, Snapchat, Twitter, Linkedin, LastPass, Apple, Dropbox, Tumblr, and more! If you are interested in having two-factor authentication setup on your accounts, or just have questions about how to come up with a good password, contact Alexssa and we’ll be happy to assist you!