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Did you know that hackers execute over 280 million malicious login attempts every single day? While they may not have up to a 50% daily success rate, countless personal information records are stolen through data breaches every year.
These figures are enough to make any business owner want to tighten their online operations to prevent data breaches. Here’s everything you need to know about preventing password hacks.
How Do Hackers Get Your Password?
Hackers use a handful of password-hacking techniques to guess your password. The easiest method is to buy these pieces of sensitive information from the dark web.
Other methods involve the use of sophisticated software programs to guess passwords. In many cases, this can be done in minutes because many people set up weak passwords. These programs include:
- Dictionary attack – where a list of prearranged words is used to guess your password
- Brute force attack – this generates a combination of symbols, letters, and numbers until it hits your password
- Phishing – involves tricking or pressuring you to expose personal information (for example, emails with malicious links that can access your credit card information)
What Can Happen If Your Password Gets Hacked
For starters, if hackers gain access to your password, your login credentials can be used to access your accounts. Hackers can change your password and prevent you from login into the hijacked account, especially if it includes your payment details. This is known as account takeover.
With your password, cybercriminals can commit identity theft, allowing them to take loans in the victims’ name, use their credit card, or gain other benefits at the expense of their victims.
Also, your data can be sold to other cybercriminals. Stolen personal information can also be used to trick unsuspecting company personnel into giving sensitive information that can harm the company.
The Risk of Using the Same Password for Different Apps
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Imagine having one key that unlocks every door you use, including your car, home, and office door. Every single door you use becomes vulnerable if anyone copies or steals your key. That’s exactly what it is like to use just one password for more than one account or app.
If a hacker successfully uses your password on one website, it won’t be long before reusing it on other sites. This way, your entire digital life is vulnerable if you use the same password across all your online accounts.
Just as it is not safe to use the same password for different apps, experts do not recommend using variations of one password. Think about it this way: if hackers can use powerful software to crack so-called strong passwords, it shouldn’t take more than a few seconds to guess a weak password or any variations of it.
Using a Password Manager
But how do you remember all your passwords if you have many online accounts? By remembering only one strong, unique password – that’s how.
Instead of trying to memorize all the different passwords to your multiple online accounts, you can use a password manager to keep track of them. A password manager is a computer program used to store and manage passwords.
Beyond storing passwords in encrypted formats, the program can generate complex passwords and fill them in required fields on web pages and local applications. That way, you don’t have to remember every password but only one master password.
How Secure is Your Password?
Experts recommend creating a strong password, which should be 12 to 16 characters long. It should also contain a mix of uppercase and lowercase characters, numbers, and symbols. Here is an example of a more complex password:
Passwords that have your name, date of birth, or any other personal information can be easily guessed and hacked. Avoid sequential numbers, letters, and common substations. Here are some examples of weak passwords:
Safely Sharing Passwords with Your Team
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You can’t completely rule out sharing of passwords if you work with a team. However, because humans are the weakest link in IT security, it is important to find ways to safely share passwords without exposing your company to hackers.
Here three ways to do this:
- Share passwords verbally: It is best if this is done face to face in a secured setting. If that is not possible, perhaps because your team works remotely, you could communicate passwords over the phone.
- Use a password vault: A password vault is an application that lets you store data securely in a single file. You can use it to keep records, such as addresses, usernames, and passwords. As you may have guessed, a password vault is encrypted and protected by a password. Consider storing these sensitive pieces of information in a password vault and then sharing them with your team.
- Share passwords through encrypted emails: Do not communicate passwords through regular or unencrypted emails for any reason. If the first two options are not feasible, make sure you encrypt the email before sending it. Research some of the trusted open-source encryption tools for this purpose.
What to Do When an Employee Leaves
One of the challenges of sharing passwords with your team is the possibility of a data breach when someone leaves the team. This is particularly true if the person leaving was sacked or if they are a greedy techie.
Here are some things you can do when someone leaves your team:
- Set up two-factor authentication: Two-factor or multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of digital security. This electronic authentication requires users to provide two or more pieces of evidence before gaining access to accounts, applications, or websites. It is best to set up two-factor authentication long before any employee leaves your organization, especially if they have access to the company’s online accounts.
- Create password levels: Everyone on a team can have access to a level 1 password. Depending on the number of levels you have, passwords to more sensitive user accounts should be restricted to higher-level management.
However, if you use a password manager, all logins are in a centralized vault. This makes it easy to grant access to employees based on their jobs or specific roles. You can quickly trace who has access to what account or application. When an employee leaves, it is easier to change all the passwords they used on all the sites and applications they logged on to.