Family Safety

Is Your Password Hacking-Friendly?

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By on Feb 17, 2011

Next time you open a new web account, say a social networking, net banking or even a e-bill payment account, or operate an existing one, do spend some time pondering on the choice of your password.

The findings of a survey shows that 79% of consumers follow very risky password construction practices, like using names and birth/ marriage dates. Moreover, many of them use the same password for important accounts including e-mail, banking or shopping and social networking sites. Further, quite a few think it is OK to select a ‘good’ password from online sites that offer/sell passwords.

As I am one of those racing towards the mid-century mark, I understand and empathise with all of you out there who find it a bore, and tasking, to create and remember strong passwords. There are so many things we have got to remember and deal with daily that we think we should keep our passwords simple to ensure that we don’t forget them when needed. Right?

Wrong, in no uncertain terms, and I will prove why.

As technology makes rapid progress, hackers are becoming more tech-savvy and smarter. The password is the weakest link to online security and is therefore their favourite first point of attack. They will first try to break into a computer or secure account by guessing the victim’s password. I wonder if you are aware that there are automated programs that can repeatedly guess passwords from a database of common words and other information.

If the hacker is successful in cracking a password, almost 30% of the time that information can be used to access other accounts of the victim that contain financial data such as bank account numbers and credit card information.

For instance consider the following password ”arvind61”. It’s a dead giveaway that there is a high probability that the user, or someone close to him, is called Arvind and 61 is probably the birth year. A smart hacker can take it from there and discover a lot of personal facts.

Another easily hackable (if I can coin such a word) case is when people use the same passwords for their e-mail as well as ATM accounts. Just imagine the field day a hacker will have, if God forbid, he/she cracks your password!

This is that time for Cybermum to step in with her wise counsel.

–Create unique password for each important account, which is the first line of defense against online thieves

–Refrain from using your own names and/or birth dates as part of the password

–The passwords should ideally be a combination of alphabets, special characters and numbers and have a minimum of 8-10 characters

–Avoid repeating characters or sequences-these are very easy for automated programmes to pick up

–Do not use complete words but word fragments

–Do change your passwords regularly

–Do not store details of accounts and passwords on your PC

–When you use public PCs or someone else’s PC, do not tick in the box stating “remember my password’

–Lastly, do not share your passwords with anyone, ever, and if circumstances force you to do so sometimes, change that particular password at the earliest

But hey! Don’t make your passwords so complicated that you yourself can’t remember them, OK? Once you get the hang of it, you will see that it is really not very difficult as there are millions of permutations possible.

Safe surfing people!!

Anindita
cybermumindia@mcafee.com
Follow on Twitter @Cybermum_India

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