It's possible that you have the wrong impression about hackers. They are sometimes portrayed in movies as nerdy teenagers, hiding in their parents' basements, trying to guess your passwords. That is not typically how it is done.
These days it's more likely that dozens of hackers are working together in an office building somewhere. They try breaking into computer systems and ultimately take over your computer, demanding a ransom to give it back. Or they could try making a fast buck by selling your usernames and passwords on the Dark Web.
They use sophisticated computer systems to scan through hundreds of thousands of passwords very quickly. These computer systems are excellent at guessing passwords.
Until now, we've all been told that a good and secure password requires at least eight or nine characters, using both upper and lower case letters, a number or two, and a few symbols. But not everyone adheres to those warnings because it's difficult to remember a password made up of gibberish.
But here's the good news: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say that "passphrases" are just as good for your online security as what we've been taught. Long phrases provide the same randomness as a haphazard collection of letters and symbols.
Try one like this: ilovefreshsashimituna. That’s 21 lower case letters, with no spaces. Also, it's easy for me to remember because it’s true.
If you are going to use this way to come up with passwords, there is an important rule to remember. You should make your pass-phrase as long as possible, always use between 16 and 64 letters. These types of passwords are very difficult to hack because the phrases are so long.
Some of the most common mistakes people make when creating passwords are:
They're too short, too simple, not unique and they never change. Click here to see more password mistakes far too many people make to find out some solutions.
To make matters worse:
- 36 percent reuse passwords across different accounts;
- 12 percent make slight changes to their passwords;
- only 38 percent create new, strong passwords for each account;
- 10 percent of people use a password that's less than eight letters long; and
- 12 percent say they don't create a complex password with numbers, symbols, and upper- and lower-case letters.
Of course, those numbers are somewhat understandable. Creating long, complicated passwords is easy, but remembering them is a bit more complicated. You've got online passwords for your banks, your credit cards, your investment funds, and much more.
If you're struggling to come up with a passphrase that's both secure and easy to remember, there's a free online tool that can help. It's called UseAPassPhrase, and it will generate random passphrases for you. Another option that works just as well is a free app called, Keeper, which helps to create random passwords and even offers a safe place to store the passwords you have for each account. Keeper is available for both Apple and Android users. Click here for more details and download instructions.
Why it matters:
Since 2013 more than 9 billion records have been stolen online through various breaches of retailers, restaurants, hotel chains, etc. That's more than the total number of people on Earth, which means many records have been stolen and sold multiple times.
Let's break these numbers down even further. This means that 65 private records are stolen every second, more than 3,500 every minute and over 230,000 every hour! Criminals use the data stolen in these breaches to launch other schemes, such as phishing scams that trick people into handing over their cash.
Your password is the first line of defense against anyone who's trying to access your accounts without your permission. And poor security habits are what led to many of these data breaches in the first place. This is why you always need to have strong, individual passwords for each of your online accounts - and you need to change them whenever news surfaces that a service you use has been compromised. For more tips on preventing hack-proof passwords, click here.