In the digital age, it’s impossible to go through life without a handful of passwords. You need to make them count, ensuring they are strong as well as memorable to reduce the chance of having your device hacked.
Hackers’ capabilities are becoming more sophisticated with each passing year. They have a number of methods available to them to crack a password, including using automated software that tries all combinations of letters and numbers to find the right one.
In other words, it’s becoming harder and harder to come up with a password that’s hacker-proof. But, you need to make it as hard as possible for them. Without wishing to sound dramatic, your digital security depends on it.
There is very little in the way of protection should your device be hacked – it’s a case of battening down the hatches, suspending your accounts, changing passwords and hoping that not too much damage is done.
While your bank will often stop any suspicious transactions, once hackers have your passwords and can access your devices, they can get their hands on any personal information you might have on them. It’s a scary prospect for anyone.
How secure is your password?
The first thing you need to do is consider the strength of your current passwords. If you’re reading this knowing that you tried to make your life easier by using a password like ‘qwerty’, ‘12345678’ or simply ‘password’, this advice could prove particularly important.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of people in the same boat, as 2019 research by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) shows.
The NCSC, a UK government agency which provides advice and support for the public and private sector in how to avoid computer security threats, revealed the most common passwords which can often be easily guessed or worked out by hackers:
|Most used in total||Names||Premier League football teams||Musicians||Fictional characters|
|123456 (23.2m)||ashley (432,276)
|liverpool (280,723)||blink182 (285,706)||superman (333,139)|
|123456789 (7.7m)||michael (425,291)||chelsea (216,677)||50cent (191,153||naruto (242,749)|
|qwerty (3.8m)||daniel (368,227)||arsenal (179,095)||eminem (167,983||tigger (237,290_|
|password (3.6m)||jessica (324,125)||manutd (59,440)||metallica (140,841)||pokemon (226,947)|
|1111111 (3.1m)||charlie (308,939)||everton (46,619)||slipknot (140,833)||batman (203,116)|
To find out the strength of your passwords, use a tool like The Password Meter which will provide you with a score out of 100.
Creating a secure password
If you scored low with your passwords on The Password Meter, it’s time to reset and overwrite them with passwords which are much stronger and harder to figure out.
As well as advising against simplistic, short and obvious passwords, the NCSC warns against using the password for multiple different accounts.
Dr Ian Levy, NCSC Technical Director, said: “Password reuse is a major risk that can be avoided – nobody should protect sensitive data with something that can be guessed, like their first name, local football team or favourite band.
“Using hard-to-guess passwords is a strong first step and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password.”
With that advice in mind, we’ve compiled a collection of the dos and don’ts on how to choose a secure password that a hacker can’t easily crack.
- Mix up your uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers.
- Ensure the password is at least 10 characters in length
- Use multi-factor authentication, where you have to input two or more pieces of information in order to gain access
- Use the fingerprint and face-recognition technology that is available on the latest devices.
- Use the automatically generated passwords that some devices provide – these sometimes look like a random sequence of symbols e.g. @#$!%+-/:?_.
- Use passphrases instead of just single words e.g. Keepmesafeplease
- Use a solitary word in any language. If you do want to use a single word as you think it’ll be easier to remember, use insert numbers for letters e.g. CH0c0L4t3 (chocolate).
- Just use your name, the name of a family member or the name of a pet.
- Use the same password across multiple websites. In this scenario, a hacker would only need to crack one password to access all your accounts.
- Give out your password to anyone.
- Use all digits – include numbers, letters and symbols, when possible.
Should you use password managers?
If you’re thinking you’ll never be able to remember multiple unique passwords, all of which include a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols, then a password manager will be essential. But are they a good thing?
The NCSC says that they are, as they not only make it easy to use long, complex, unique passwords across different sites and services, with no memory burden, they can spot fake websites, so they can help prevent you falling for phishing attacks.
They can generate new passwords when you need them automatically pasting them into the right places – and sync your passwords across all your devices, so you’ll have them with you whether you’re on your laptop, phone or tablet.
What’s not to like? The only password you’ll have to remember is for your password manager. But it’s crucial that you do, as you won’t be able to get back in if you don’t.
Insure your tech with Gadget Cover
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