Throughout 2017, cybercrime has risen significantly with several stories hitting the headline of different organizations reporting being “hacked.” But just because we only hear of attacks happening to well-known organizations, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you.
While being “hacked” has an air of sophistication and mystery, the unfortunate truth is that “hacking” is just shorthand for the process of cybercriminals guessing or cracking your password (cracking is just guessing done on the scale of computer automation). Even though passwords are stored in an encrypted state, s short or simple enough password will be cracked within moments using algorithms to match the encrypted hashes with plain text.
Easy to crack passwords are known to involve the simplest combinations such as ‘qwerty123’. The reason these are easy to crack is that they are known, used passwords, so when running them through a password cracker, they often come up first. Other passwords that should be avoided are ones that include birthdays and names, as these are easy for someone to guess. Using the same password across all accounts is also dangerous because once they’ve gained access to one account they can then access the others.
A strong password would include capital letters, numbers, and symbols. If you are worried you would forget a password as complex as this, then try associating it with something relevant. For example, ‘Ihla33brsIw10.’ would be considered a strong password and this would translate to ‘I have lived at 33 Benton Road since I was 10.’ It’s highly unlikely anyone would guess this and you can create the sentence to your own choice.
Some applications such as Instagram and Gmail have launched two-step verification (or two-factor authentication in the Apple community). This involves logging on with your password and a code which is sent via text to your mobile at the time of logging on. You should use this wherever possible as it is an added security measure to keep your account safe.
Do’s and Don’ts guide for creating safe passwords
Your password is like the key to your front door, you wouldn’t want anyone entering your home without permission, the same rule should apply to your online accounts. Keep all your accounts secure, and if you suspect your account has been hacked, change your password immediately. Depending on the severity you may also want to consider changing your email address. If you’ve become the victim of identity theft, report it immediately to IdentityTheft.com, the US’s identity theft reporting portal provided by the FCC.