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16 October 2020

How to set a secure Password

Your password could destroy your life. This may sound dramatic, but a weak password may leave you vulnerable. Your email accounts and social media profiles could be accessed, resulting in personal details being exposed. Once bank accounts are compromised, you could be at risk of serious financial loss with long-term repercussions. Yet online security does not have to be all doom and gloom: set up a secure password using these six simple steps.

·     1.   Passwords should withstand 100 guesses

The most important factor is ensuring that your password can stand up to a minimum of 100 guesses. Experts assume that hackers can identify the average person’s password about 73% of the time; they will also hack multiple accounts with minor variations of the same password.

Hackers will access your social media accounts to harvest personal information. Your password should therefore not be connected to any public knowledge about you or your relatives. Whilst Facebook provides a platform to share your life with your friends and family, sharing personal information online could lead to identity theft, fraud and could even jeopardise your employment.

·        2. Use a phrase

Instead of thinking of your password as a secret code, think of it as a ‘passphrase’. These are strings of words that are easy to memorise, but make it difficult for anyone else to crack.

For example: (i) you wanted to be a kangaroo as a child, (ii) your favourite colour is purple, (iii) these facts have never been mentioned online; a potential passphrase may be Iwasapurplekangaroo. This way the passphrase is unique to you, memorable and will confound hackers.

·        3. Go long

The new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines suggest that users should be able to create passwords of up to 64 characters in length and use spaces in between words. While it may be tempting to simply meet the bare minimum requirement of eight characters, you will get a much stronger password by stretching things out.

You could create a complex list, or a sentence of items that makes perfect sense to you; this could be a list of the names of your pets from childhood flop drop and bubbles, or all of the streets on the way to your favourite restaurant Serpentine Bar hyde park 20 . Again, easy for you to remember and hard for hackers to crack.

·        4. Choose something memorable

Each password should be unique, but they do not have to be cumbersome. The NIST refer to passwords as ‘memorised secrets’. You need to avoid the temptation to write down passwords, so pick a password that has enough meaning to commit to your memory. If this proves to be a struggle, programmes such as Dashlink can assist you and they come with two-factor identification.

·        5. Use two-factor identification

Passwords aim to protect your information; yet cyber-criminals continue to develop more sophisticated methods and you may not realise the damage until it is too late. A two-factor authentication sends notifications to the account holder every time a password is: changed, entered on to a new device, or accessed at a new location. Verification is also sought to ensure that these are genuine attempts.

·        6. Get creative with characters

It may take some time for websites to conform to the new NIST guidelines, but you can always create a fun password that complies with current restrictions. Examples could be: 1likeb1gmonk3ys! or w4akem.3up@6. These comply with password criteria: they have at least eight characters, a numerical digit, a special character and uppercase and lowercase letters.

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