How Secure is Your Password?
Why is Password security important and how can I remember them all?
With hacking becoming one of the biggest threats of the digital age, having a secure password and a different one for all your accounts has become increasingly more important.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of just using a single password for all of your different accounts. You don’t want to be racking your brains every time you open a new browser window, trying to remember the key to each individual password. When you want to get work done quickly, you tend to develop processes that save you time. You might think that having the same password for multiple accounts is one of those time saving tricks. But let’s just think for a moment about how much time you will have to spend sorting out all your systems, accounts and data if you ever get hacked. If a hacker can figure out the one password that you use for everything, they’ve got access to, well, everything!
There are certainly ways that you can have a super secure password and still add time saving methodology to how you remember it. There’s also a few tips floating around out there about how to create a secure password that you will be able to remember quite easily.
Have you ever heard of a password manager?
A password manager is a piece of software that you can install on one or all of your devices to store your unique passwords. It can also generate new cryptic passwords for you and save them against the relevant account for you to copy over whenever needed.
Using a password manager is a great way to keep track of several different passwords. It encourages you to make sure that you are creating strong and unique protections for each new account you create.
What if the password manager’s security is compromised?
As with any online technology, there is always a risk of it being hacked. There’s no point lying and saying that password managers are immune to this.
However, when a hacker gets into a password manager account, yes, they will be able to see all your passwords, but they will be completely scrambled. It would take any hacker far longer than it’s worth to try and unscramble your passwords to make sense of any of them. We’re talking decades.
A really helpful site for checking if your security has been compromised on any of your accounts is https://haveibeenpwned.com/. This allows users to subscribe and get alerts if their personal data (usually email address and passwords in some form) is ever found to have been made public. If this happens, any accounts where you use the same password will also be vulnerable. This subscription gives you the chance to go in and change your password as soon as you find out it has been compromised.
Do I have any other options?
Well, yes. If you still feel untrusting of using the internet to store all your passwords, you can always still pull out the old pen and paper option. While we have every confidence in the available password management software and wouldn’t recommend reverting back to hardcopies, this is still a secure option.
The risk is that you may lose this piece of paper and will then have no other way to recover all your passwords. It will also take you a bit longer to look through hard copies and find each password, punching it in one character at a time. This may also allow you to fall back into the bad habit of using variations of the same password for everything.
Using password management software is quick and easy, one click of a button and the software detects which site you are using and finds the password you need for it. All you have to do is click on the password to autofill the page, or a quick copy and paste.
Writing down your passwords means that you need to take security of those passwords into your own hands. Written passwords are readable by others, if you lose your hard copy or if someone finds it, they have all of your passwords. If someone get’s access to your password manager, they still won’t be able to see your passwords.
A tip for creating a strong password
There are a few different tips floating around on the internet for creating strength in your passwords yourself. We think that this one is pretty good for making them as long and unguessable as possible while still being able to remember them.
A good tip is to create your password out of a phrase, or perhaps even a song lyric. This isn’t to suggest you should make your password 15 words long - that would be annoying. To use this tip, take your phrase, for example “Well she hit them with her ten cent pistol and they've never been the same” would become, Wshtwh10Cp&tnbts. Taking the first letter from every word of the phrase or lyric and using it to make a code, swapping out letters for characters and numbers wherever possible.
This method makes lengthy passwords a bit of fun, and you end up with a really strong cryptic password at the end of it. You can use a code to transfer your password to other accounts, like adding a FB into it for your Facebook account, or a Gm for Gmail - whatever works for you.
At the end of the day, the easiest way to create a catalogue of really secure passwords and have them all stored in one easily accessible place is to use a password manager. Have a look at 1Password or Roboform, or Lastpass if you want to use something free.
The benefits of using a password manager far outweigh the risks and is definitely the best option for keeping and creating secure passwords.