Why it’s so Important to Always Use Complex and Unique Passwords
Unfortunately, there are cybercriminals and hackers who are constantly trying to gain access to valuable Internet resources like your banking and personal information. We must ask ourselves what is a complex and unique password? We create passwords that we think no one would ever guess.
But, the truth of the matter is that these criminals can be relentless when attempting to gain access to their targets. They use specially designed software to complement their malicious actions and behaviors. What one user considers a secure password may be simply a minor inconvenience for a hacker. We must ask ourselves what is a complex and unique password? What’s the best way to create strong passwords?
The techniques and resources that hackers use to break our passwords can be quite effective. There are several reasons to use strong, unique passwords. We hear the stories about large corporations being hacked and millions of credentials being stolen, sometimes without being detected for days, weeks, or even months after the crime.
The Dark Web is full of these credentials for sale. We can’t stop those types of things from happening but we can ensure that our personally used credentials to access the websites we visit are created in a secure manner.
This is a complex and unique password, always create a strong password…
When creating passwords a user must ensure that the password is unique to that particular account/website. What happens is once a password is stolen by a cybercriminal they will look for other accounts under the same name as the victim and try to use that same password to gain access to other personal, sensitive, or financial information. That’s why uniqueness is so important.
When it comes to strong passwords certain rules apply to the creation of complex and unique passwords on the Internet and as well as within your personal home network. Proper personal user password security involves both complexity and uniqueness.
Photo by Tima
Identity Theft is Scary
Passwords that are not complex and unique can lead to identity theft. A study cited in Forbes magazine concluded that one in every twenty adults has been a victim of identity theft. Once identity theft has occurred you could spend years trying to sort it out, and hopefully repairing whatever damage has been done.
What is a Complex Password?
There are several factors to consider. A complex password uses multiple types of characters in different ways to create a secure password. It is recommended to use at least three of the following character types:
1) lowercase letters,
2) uppercase letters,
4) and special characters – possibly alt-characters.
A complex password is also long. Some say 8 characters is long enough. However, it is so simple to make it longer why not do it. I recommend a length of at least 12 characters.
What is a Unique Password?
The answer to this is simple. But, the actual practice of doing it is not. Simply put a unique password is one that is used only one time, for one site, and not repeated again for the current site or other sites. It takes extra effort to make all passwords unique, but it is critical for avoiding multiple and costly compromises.
How to Create a Strong Password
Now that we know what is a complex and unique password, let’s talk about how we can put our knowledge to practice. Remember the importance of using strong passwords all the time. It is easy to sometimes take shortcuts that save us work and time. Foregoing strong password management is no place to take shortcuts. I use a password generator that is part of a password manager when I create complex and unique passwords.
Recently, Digital Guardian® surveyed 1000 people about their password security habits. The results are interesting.
- A majority of consumers reuse the same password many times.
- More than 20% of consumers have had accounts hacked.
- Sadly, 64% of consumers use weak passwords.
- Difficulty remembering passwords causes bad habits.
- Many did not know how to create a strong password.
In times past passwords were used for entry into private clubs and lots of trivial purposes. However today we rely on passwords to protect our personal and private information and safeguard our life savings, our retirement. We must maintain good strong password security practices. Complex and unique passwords offer additional security. Each application should have it’s own complex and unique password.
Don’t Fall Victim to a Sneaky Ploy
Criminals and unscrumptious users attempt to gain access to your passwords using many sneaky techniques. Following is a list of methods they use that you should be aware of:
- Shoulder Surfing — Kind of like it sounds, this is when a malicious bystander attempts to acquire your password by looking at the computer screen or keyboard while peering over your shoulder. This can happen anytime, so always stay aware of your surroundings. This can also happen when paying at a store or accessing an ATM. These situations are especially dangerous because the malicious actor is only attempting to get your 4-digit PIN number. It’s dangerous because once they have your PIN they may attempt to steal your credit or debit card, sometimes by force. Always take special care when entering PIN numbers in public.
- Social Engineering — Bad actors usually look for the weakest link when stealing passwords. Often the weakest link is ourselves; the human. Through a false sense of trust an attacker may use psychological ploys that will trick you into taking an action that seems harmless. But, clicking on a malicious link in an email can lead to compromised personal information. Entering information when replying to an email that you don’t totally trust is a way bad actors obtain your personal information. Social engineering attacks can happen in person, over the telephone, or through text and email communications. Once again, always be aware the current situation.
Top 10 Worst Password Mistakes
- Not being aware of your surroundings. Applies everywhere.
- Reusing passwords. Every application should have a unique password.
- Sharing passwords. There’s no reason this should ever be done.
- Keeping passwords in an unsecure method.
- Not using multi-factor authentication. Adds a layer of security.
- Not using a password manager. A secure way to manage passwords.
- Using passwords that are not complex. Simple passwords are insecure.
- Using personal information in passwords.
- Not changing passwords when appropriate.
- Using passwords that are too short. A good password is complex and long.
Should you use a Password Manager and Generator?
Whether you use a password manager to create and manage strong passwords is entirely up to you. a Dashlane analysis of data from more than 20,000 users found that the average user has 90 online accounts. A password manager makes it easy to create strong passwords and allows us to use complex and unique passwords.
The password manager I use and have used for years is called Dashlane. It’s an excellent password manager with a built-in password generator. It keeps track of everything securely and automatically. It works across all your devices. Check it out here and get six months of free premium service.
How to Create A Strong Password for Online Banking
Always use a unique and complex password. We know the obvious things not to do. Do not share online banking passwords with anyone. Do not use the same (or very similar) password on multiple banking online accounts. Always use unique passwords for all your different accounts, even if they are not online banking accounts.
It’s just good practice not to use duplicate passwords between different accounts. If you sometimes use poor password practices, your not alone. It’s hard to change old habits. I use to use duplicate passwords for multiple accounts. I did that for years. But, as we hear more often about compromised passwords, it’s the right decision to change the bad password habits. When it comes to creating strong passwords, especially for online banking accounts, there should be no shortcuts taken.
By using a password manager with a password generator the task becomes simple. A password manager not only can create unique and strong passwords, but it will remember them for you. This practice allows having to only reminder one complex and unique password. That’s the one for your password manager.
Here are some examples of strong passwords for online banking accounts, or any accounts, that have been generated using a password generator that is part of my password manager. And, if you notice you can select the length of the password generated. The recommended length is a minimum of 12 characters. I use 24 characters. At that lenght it would take a supercomputer decades to guess it.
- qNP,z\Srp3H7R’xco4$]]b@H (24 Characters)
Also, it’s about more than a strong password, Always use a strong username.
Although it’s simple to use an email address for a user name, it’s not a recommended choice. Some people use a first initial and underline and then last name for a username. That just makes it easier for bad actors that may have some personal information about you already
There should be as much emphasis put on usernames as there is on passwords. We consider passwords as “Secrets”, we should do the same with usernames. Never associate any of your personal information with a username. Once again, password managers will also remember usernames, or as I like to call them, “CodeNames”.
What are Best Practices for Password Security?
1) Update passwords on a regular basis, and always immediately after being notified of a possible breach.
2) Passphrases are effectively secure and easier to remember, but use them sparingly.
3) Don’t reuse passwords between multiple accounts.
4) Protect online banking accounts with multi-factor authentication.
5) Never store passwords on your computer unless they are encrypted.
6) Use unique usernames that don’t contain any personal information.
7) Never share a password with anyone.
Updated 03/14/2021 by Kirby Allen