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Danger - Why Weak Passwords are Very BAD for You!

Today I'm checking in from lovely Kerhonkson, New York.  A quaint cove nestled in the Catskill Mountains of New York State.  The air outside is clean, crisp, and refreshing. It reminds me of Canada.  And when I think of Canada, I think of my good friend "Gnome." He is one of Canada's top ethical hackers and provides me with some of the best Internet security advice on planet Earth.

On Passwords . . .
Everyone has a password for something they do online or off.  Passwords represent the front line of defense against people who might look to access your personal or business information.  Identity theft is a very real threat. It is important to ask yourself "how secure are my passwords?"  Consider the comforting statistic below brought to you by the United States Department of Agriculture:

"Your computer password is the foundation of your computer security, and it needs to stand up against the tools that hackers have for cracking it. There are 308,000,000 possible letter combinations for a six letter password using all upper case or all lower case letters. A readily available password cracker can check all of them in only 2 minutes 40 seconds."

Pretty comforting statistics, eh?  Are you using a weak password to protect your sensitive information? You need to make sure you have the best password possible.

Example of a bad passwords:

  • bob1967 (Name and birthday)
  • Blueleaf23 (Simple words and numbers)

Great, Yet Simple Password Suggestions
Gnome told me to include a space in passwords. The default setting for many automated password cracking programs don't check for spaces.  Also use nonstandard symbols such as "%, !, &" and "MiXed cAse," plus numbers.  Obviously longer passwords are more difficult to break. Doing these simple things will ensure that your passwords are significantly more secure. Be sure that the system your using can accept "spaces" or nonstandard characters.

Example of good passwords:

  • 45g-$ sd
  • 2^hu4@1p
  • ds%3D26Cr

A Password Protocol
Aside from a good password, you should also adopt a password protocol.  Other people engage in the nefarious activity of social hacking. Social hackers are individuals who misrepresent themselves as agents for various companies. This involves trying to get people to unwillingly give up their passwords. Never give out your passwords to anyone over email, telephone, or otherwise.

Keep yourself "safer" on the online world.  Use a good password for everything you do online.

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Comments

Matthew Jacoby

Weak passwords are a HUGE issue that, for some odd reason, hasn't hit the IT Admin mainstream yet. I guess they don't realize that those sophisticated (and EXPENSIVE) firewalls and intrusion detection systems are rendered practically useless if there is a single weak password on their networks.

The problem now is that companies are coming up with "Password Recommendations", or policies they have no way to enforce. Instead of making "recommendations", I don't understand why companies don't REQUIRE a strong password.

There is a software solutions out there called nFront Password Filter that does just that...it REQUIRES strong passwords on Windows domains. With the option to have multiple policies, different users can be assigned different requirements. Along with its built in dictionary scan and ease of installation, IT Admins can have their networks more secure than ever in a matter of minutes.

ITmonkey

It's always amazing to me how little interest people show in protecting their information. As an example, I know a guy who locks the doors to his car while it's parked in his closed garage, but his password to almost EVERYTHING is a simple six character string (all lower case, of course!)

Another suggestion: in most cases you can use a passphrase instead of a password. Using a simple phrase will make your login much harder to crack. If you're a good typist, this shouldn't be too hard to get used to.

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