Home Security My password is nine characters long – must be secure. Right?

A nine-number password — 123456789 — can be cracked 431 times in the blink of an eye through a brute force attack. Substituing one number with a letter from the alphabet — A23456789 — increases the time taken to crack it to more than 40 years.

Privacy Awareness Week  has come and gone and yet I will bet that most of you did not change all your passwords or take any steps to protect online privacy.

A majority of bad things happen to people who don’t have safe, strong, unique passwords – credit card fraud, identity theft and others generally making your life hell.

The team at Better Buys found that in 2014 around half of US citizens had personal identifiable information exposed by hackers – and that excludes massive corporate and government data breaches.

They analysed character types and lengths in common passwords to discover the ideal combination for the best security. They found out just how long these passwords are safe from hackers, and how cracking times have changed over time. They have a really interesting Password tester and tips and tricks here. I strongly suggest you read it.

The following table shows password strengths:

Their advice is simple.

As time goes on, it only becomes more likely that your password will be hacked, putting your most personal information at risk. By taking a few steps to enhance your password, you can exponentially minimise the risk of a breach.

When it comes to passwords, size trumps all else – so choose one that’s at least 16 characters. And be sure to choose a mix of character types (numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and symbols) to further enhance its security.

Steer clear of words found in the dictionary, pronouns, usernames, and other pre-defined terms, as well as commonly used passwords – the top two in 2015 were “123456” and “password” (yes, you read that right).

Never use the same password in different places (that forgotten account at a site you never use could lead to a bank account breach). Consider using a free password generator and vault like LastPass in order to get a complex password with no discernible pattern to help thwart password crackers.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

 

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