Last week, LinkedIn announced that it had been the victim of hackers who had managed to obtain over 6.5 million members’ passwords and published them online. Thankfully, not many of the passwords were decoded but undoubtedly this serious breach of security was not only a big headache for LinkedIn but also potentially for its millions of users.
Passwords or phrases are an ancient form of protection which have today become synonymous with access to computer software and online accounts. And, in the same way that they were changed regularly to avoid detection and misuse in the past, so today we must equally be on our guard.
It’s very easy to become lazy with passwords, to use the same one for every online login, to use some memorable word or name or number and to keep the same passwords for months on end… This is the stuff that cybercriminals’ dreams are made of and, if you continue with these bad habits, you are inviting internet thieves to ransack your accounts in much the same way as leaving your house key under a pot plant outside the back door.
There is much good advice to be found on the web as to best practice when using passwords and some of the more important dos and don’ts are listed below:
- Use same password for everything
- Use dictionary words no matter whether in your own language or Medieval Latin
- Use words spelled backwards, shortforms or abbreviations
- Re-use old passwords
- Use personal information such as your birthday, pet’s name or passport or driving licence numbers
- Use sequences such as qwerty or repeated characters like 4444
- Keep passwords on a file on your computer, email them, or even keep them on a piece of paper in your desk drawer
- Set yourself a reminder to change your password every 3 months
- Use a mixture of characters and symbols from your keyboard including upper and lower case letters
- Use Microsoft’s password checker to find a strong password: http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/passwords-create.aspx
- Use at least 8 characters – the longer the password, the harder the cybercriminals’ software will have to work
Managing your passwords may seem a trivial and irritating task but if overlooked it could result in disaster for your business. Protect yourself by following the simple steps outlined above or go one step better and hire a VA to do it for you…