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Cybersecurity: The Importance of Strong Passwords and How to Obtain Them

In today's digitized society, protecting your devices and accounts is more critical than ever. That means having a strong password.

Passwords are often the only barrier that stands between a potential hacker and your personal information. They are the most common form of authentication, making it crucial to have a solid password to keep your information safe. Unfortunately, many people make themselves easy targets by committing the mistakes below.

Common Password Mistakes:

1. Using personal information

Many people choose their passwords based on personal information because it makes memorization easier. However, this also makes it easier for a hacker to crack your password. Consider some of your passwords: do any of them contain a family member's name? Your birthday? Hometown or street name? Maybe even your pet's name? Whether you like it or not, a lot of this information is publicly available. It only takes a little bit of research on social media or a search engine for a hacker to find those details.

2. Using common words, phrases or quotes

Some people may avoid using personal information for their passwords, but will still use common words for the sake of memorization. This can make you more susceptible to a dictionary attack. This attack method sorts through words in the dictionary to break into a password-protected system. Many hackers can try hundreds of words a second, making it a quick and easy job to find a password if the words are included in the dictionary. And adding numbers and special characters may not even help: some hackers use a hybrid attack to put together common words, phrases, numbers, and special characters.

3. Reusing passwords

Reusing passwords endangers your accounts just as much as a weak password does. If you use the same password across multiple accounts, hackers could have access to all of those systems once they crack your password once.

4. Don't leave your passwords where others can easily find them

Another way scammers could figure out your passwords is by physically finding them. Don't write down your passwords and leave them somewhere obvious like your work desk, notes on your phone, or even worse...stuck on your actual computer. Many of us picture hackers as a hooded figure in a dark room with their eyes glued to a screen, but they could just be a normal person who stumbles upon your password list.

5. Don't save your passwords through a web browser

While it may be easy to simply store your passwords on a web browser, this could make your accounts more susceptible to an attack. Surfing the web in general puts your devices at risk to bad links, corrupt websites and sketchy advertisements. If they're able to hack into your computer, scammers may be able to access your accounts through that password storage.

So what can you do to minimize your risk of being hacked? Here are a few tips.

Password Tips:

1. Use different passwords for every account and device.

2. Use a combination of random words to create phrases rather than short, simple words.

3. Use mnemonics to help you remember your password. For example, rather than using a favorite movie quote, you could use the first letter of each word from the quote and add easy-to-remember special characters.

Taking "Hey man, did you touch my drum set?" and making it "Hm_dytmds?1"

4. The longer the better. Try making your passwords as long as the system or site allows.

5. Use multi-factor authentication if it's available. 

6. Consider password reset questions very carefully. With a little research, hackers will be able to find out the answers to nearly all of these questions. And while yes, lying is bad, it might be wise to answer these questions untruthfully. Or with an odd response. 

Example: The answer to "What's your favorite color?" could be "Biscuits and Gravy."

7. If you think you won't be able to remember all of your passwords, consider a strong password manager. Password manager products are essentially an encrypted digital vault that will help autofill your passwords. When choosing one, it's important to consider pricing and compatibility across all of your devices. And according to some folks at Critical Insight, many of the major software developers of these products separate your password data from their regular business data. So you won't have to worry about your accounts getting hacked if the business itself runs into some cyber trouble.

There's no promise that following these tips and practices will keep you from becoming a victim of a cyber attack. But implementing some of these techniques will certainly make it harder for hackers to access your information. For more helpful cybersecurity tips, check out our blog.

Fight the Phish: How to Recognize (and Avoid) Phishing Attempts

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