Everything You Need to Know About Password Security

Everything You Need to Know About Password Security

Believe it or not, the humble password is one of our most important online security tools. Your password is the only thing standing between your private personal and financial information and the prying eyes of cybercriminals.

Despite this, many of us fail to practise adequate password security. These days, you need a password to access everything from your Facebook account to your online banking server. You (hopefully) used a password or pin number to login to your device and read this article. The frequency with which we use passwords means that many people get lazy and fall into bad habits that do little to protect their online information.

The rate of identity theft has significantly risen as we convert to a largely digital world. To avoid falling victim, it is very important that you understand and practise good security habits and this includes making use of strong, secure passwords.  

How to create a secure password

The first step to creating a good password is to understand what makes a bad password, one that will be easily guessed by online criminals. When creating a new password, try to avoid:

  • Alphabetical, keyboard or numerical patterns: This includes phrases like ‘abcdefg’ ‘qwerty’ or ‘123456’.
  • Easily guessed security questions: Many websites use security questions instead of passwords. Avoid selecting question and answer combinations that can be easily researched using your social media profiles — for example, your date of birth or your kid’s names.
  • Re-using a password: When you combine multiple social media accounts, email addresses, online banking accounts, and work applications, you come up with a lot of passwords. Using the same password for all of these accounts is the easiest way of getting hacked and having your information ending up on the dark web.

As a general rule, a secure password is one that:

  • Features a mix of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Has no ties to your personal information.
  • Does not include any real words, no matter how random.
  • Has not been used for any other of your accounts.

What to do if your password has been compromised

Anyone, no matter how secure your information is, can be victim to a data breach or online hack. While online security is improving, so too are the tactics of cybercriminals. This is why it is so important to know what to do should your password and personal information be compromised.

Typically once a hacker has access to your personal information, they will either use it personally (for example, draining your bank accounts) or sell it on the dark web for profit. Once on the dark web, it’s very hard (near impossible) to have it removed.

If you have been told that your information has been lost in a data breach, you should immediately:

  • Find out what information has been stolen. This can include passwords, personal details (such as your date of birth, address, employment and medical information)
  • Contact your bank. Even if you don’t think that your financial information has been affected, you should still contact your bank and let them know that you have fallen victim to a data breach. They may still recommend that you cancel your credit cards and close your accounts.
  • Change all of your passwords. Once a cybercriminal has your personal information, they can use it to guess passwords to other accounts.
  • Check your credit reports. In Australia, there are three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and illion. If a cybercriminal has used your information to take out a loan or apply for credit, the bureaus will be able to let you know and recommend further courses of action.
  • Look for suspicious activity, across all of your accounts. This includes social media, banking, email, and work related platforms.

Tips and tools for remembering your password

While we all have good intentions when it comes to online security, many of us struggle when it comes to passwords. There is a very simple reason behind this — we just have too many passwords to remember.

However, with the range of available security tools today, there is simply no excuse for forgetting your password or falling back on using the same code over and over again.

Security experts recommend using an online password manager, which can store all of your passwords in one encrypted bank. Many popular password managers are also able to create strong, secure passwords for you.

You should also consider investing in dark web monitoring. Should your personal information end up on the dark web, you will immediately be notified and can take steps to mitigate the damage — changing all of your passwords, for example.

If you have concerns about your online security, it’s always a good idea to speak to a security professional. They will be able to recommend products and services to protect your online activities.

Password security is essential and fortunately, easy to master. Get on top of your password habits today to secure your personal and financial information so that you can browse online with confidence.

    Written by: Bridget, a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne. She is a copywriter for Newpath Web and loves working with words of all shapes and sizes. When not playing around with punctuation and grammar, she enjoys travelling and curating her Spotify playlists.