A strong password provides essential protection from financial fraud and identity theft. But these days, with so many digital accounts, it’s easy to overlook best practices. Plus, technology changes so quickly, it can be hard to keep up!
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report 2021, a record 847,376 complaints of cyber-crime were reported to the FBI by the public, a seven percent increase from 2020. Phishing scams, identity theft, and personal data breaches are among the most common types of internet crimes reported last year.
Think you’ve got an uncrackable password? Here are five reasons you might not…
- You use the same password for every account. Don’t worry—you’re not alone. Seventy-five percent of Google users say they have trouble keeping track of all their passwords. One study found the reason for this could be we're each juggling 100 passwords across various sites and services. But using the same password can result in a chain reaction of vulnerabilities should your only password be compromised.
- There aren’t enough characters in your password. It’s estimated nearly half of Americans use passwords of eight characters or fewer. Due to technology advancements, most types of passwords require less time to crack than they did just a few years ago. Experts say a seven-character password with letters, numbers, and symbols would take seven minutes to crack in 2020 but just 31 seconds in 2022. Each character you add to a password makes it an order of magnitude harder to crack. Passwords today should be at least 16 to 20 characters long and include a mix of lowercase and uppercase characters, numbers and special symbols.
- Your password contains personal information. Don’t choose passwords based upon details that may not be as confidential as you’d expect. There are all sorts of databases containing information such as your birth date, Social Security or phone number, and even names of family members. Pictures on your Facebook page, details on your personal blog, or tweets like, “Happy birthday” are all giveaways.
- Your password uses common words, phrases, or sequences. This may seem obvious, but a recent survey revealed the most common passwords are still the most predictable: 123456, iloveyou, and Password, for example, rank at the top of the 2022 list. These types of passwords are vulnerable to what’s called a dictionary attack, which is a method of breaking into a password-protected system by systematically entering every word in a dictionary as a password. What is okay to use is multiple randomly generated words, also called a passphrase (e.g., glacier-gnat-cylinder-slip). Passphrases generally tend to be longer and more complex than the average password, which can increase overall security.
- You’re not using a password manager. A password manager is a program that houses all your passwords in one convenient location with one master password. They also create all the complicated passwords you’ll need to help protect your online accounts. And many password managers offer the extra layer of protection of two-factor authentication. The only password you’ll need to remember on your password manager is the master password–if it’s secure, you should be safe.
Given that a password is often the only thing standing between a cybercriminal and your personal and financial data, now is a great time to evaluate your passwords or consider a password manager to improve your online protection.