Hackers never sleep; they work day and night, honing their skills and trying new things. Right now, as you are reading this, somebody is likely attempting to steal your photos, your money, and your identity—this person is intelligent, well educated, highly skilled and very good at what they do. But before you panic, just remember that you can thwart their best efforts with a strong password.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- How passwords get hacked
- The tools hackers use to steal passwords
- The most common types of cyber attack
- How to create a strong password
- And how to keep your passwords safe
Why Do I Need A Strong Password?
Modern cybercriminals are sophisticated, and they are always coming up with new plots and ploys to steal from you. Now, more than ever before, we live in a digital world, where much of our lives are integrated and entangled with the internet. So, if your password becomes compromised, you can end up in big trouble very quickly, even more so if you use that same password on other sites. Always remember, a strong password is a great defence against even the most formidable hackers.
How Does A Password Get Hacked?
There are dozens of ways, maybe hundreds, for cybercriminals to crack passwords, and many of them are highly effective. That said, most hackers rely heavily on three main methods of attack because these three methods have withstood the test of time and proven to be effective. Let’s go over each one in some detail so that you can understand how these attacks work and how easy it is for hackers to steal your passwords.
Brute Force Attack
The brute force attack is a classic and highly effective way of cracking passwords. Basically, the hacker uses a software that will try every possible password eventually. The software starts by trying all the different combinations of letters, then numbers, and finally symbols. Easy passwords can be cracked in minutes by a brute force attack, whereas strong passwords can take months or longer to steal with brute force software.
A dictionary attack is when the hacker has a massive list of common passwords and uploads that list to a program that then tries to access your account using all of those different passwords. Some of these lists are massive, and most are ever-expanding as hackers share their dictionaries amongst themselves.
Phishing works a bit differently from the other methods, but the premise is pretty simple. Basically, hackers can create fake websites and apps that mirror real websites that you use; when you attempt to login to the fake website, the hackers can immediately see your password and access your account. Oftentimes, these links come in emails that look legitimate, so always be sure that you double-check the spelling and verify the source of any emails you receive before logging into any of your accounts via email or SMS.
Tips For Creating Strong Passwords
All of the attacks we’ve looked at can be foiled just by having a strong password and updating it regularly. The following tips will help you create the strongest possible password so that you can deter cybercriminals and protect yourself online.
A Long Password Is A Strong Password
Because the most common methods of attack involve using computers to guess the digits in your password, you can improve the strength of your passwords by making them longer. The longer a password is, the harder it is to crack, and it takes much more time and effort to crack a strong password than it does the crack a weak one. So, unless you are a high-profile individual, it’s unlikely that a hacker will be willing to dedicate his computing power to cracking your password for months at a time. Remember, hackers, love short passwords because they can crack them today.
A Strong Password Has Special Symbols
Using special symbols in your password is another great way to decrease your odds of being hacked. Most hacking software will start with the letters and then move on to the numbers, so if you have symbols in your password, it can take ages before the software even gets around to trying them, which can significantly deter cybercriminals.
Avoid Repetition Or Number Sequences
Always try to avoid using patterns in your passwords. Hackers and hacking software can recognize patterns, so using repetitive characters or number sequences makes cracking your passwords much easier; and whatever you do, avoid 123, 321, 987, and these sorts of obvious numbering schemes as they are widely used and effortless to crack.
Use Your Creativity In Splicing Together Random Words And Numbers
Try to think of ways to splice your passwords together by putting the numbers and symbols in the middle of a word rather than at the end of it. So, let’s say that your password is normally password1234; try pa1ss2wo3rd4 instead. It would be even better if you incorporated both upper and lowercase letters as well, which would make it Pa1Ss2Wo3Rd4, and best of all, would be to add in a few symbols to replace some of the letters, as in, [email protected]$s2W03Rd4. This example still contains a number sequence, and so it isn’t a perfect password, but it is infinitely better than what we started with, which was password1234.
Don’t Use The Same Password On Different Platforms
No matter how strong your password is, with enough time, effort, and resources, it can be cracked. Remember, even the largest tech companies in the world get hacked regularly – governments get hacked, and they have the best-of-the-best cyber security systems.
So, you can add an additional layer of security to your life by not using the same password for multiple platforms. If one of your social media accounts gets hacked – that’s terrible. But if all of your social media accounts, and your bank account, and your credit card accounts, and your cloud storage, and everything else gets hacked at the same time because you only had one password, things can go from terrible to much worse very quickly.
Use A Combination Of At Least Eight Letters, Numbers, And Symbols
As mentioned, the longer your password is—the harder it is to crack. A password that is at the very least eight characters and includes a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols is really the bare minimum for a good password these days, and an even longer password would be even better.
How To Keep Your Passwords Safe
Having a strong password is only half the battle. There are a couple of other things that you should also do to ensure that your accounts always remain secure. Let’s go over them now.
Use A Password Manager To Keep Track Of Your Passwords
There is a way to make sure that you have a very strong unique password for all of your accounts without having to worry about remembering them all—a password manager. Desktop-based password managers can be used to save all of your passwords in an encrypted vault, locally on your device so that in order for anyone to access your passwords, they would need to physically have your device, and also have very advanced decryption software, and even then, it could take months or even years to crack.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
By using two-factor authentication, you can again add another layer of protection to your accounts. The way it works is that even when you do log in with your password, you will be prompted to enter a unique one-time code that gets sent to either your phone via SMS or to your email. So, without having access to either your phone or email account, a hacker would be unable to actually do anything with your password.
Don’t Give Out Your Password
Last but not least, never give out your password to anyone. You may be tempted to share a password with your spouse or children, but remember that situations can change, and things can happen. If you are the only one who has your password, then you won’t need to worry about someone else sharing or losing your password, which is, of course, essential if you want your passwords to remain secure.
If you want to protect your accounts and deter cybercriminals from targeting you online, then your best line of defence will always be a strong password. Cybercriminals have powerful tools at their disposal which can crack passwords, but the strongest passwords are often time-consuming and resource intensive to crack, making it impractical to target people with strong passwords when there are so many people with weak passwords. By ensuring that your password contains upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols and that it is at least eight digits long, you can foil would-be criminals and safeguard your identity on the internet.