The dawn of the digital age has undoubtedly made our lives easier. We can shop in a few clicks, book dinner reservations with swipes, and send money instantly. It’s a good thing that we can rely on online services, but not everyone on the internet wants what’s best for us.
You’ve probably heard about many people experiencing cyberattacks daily, with hackers leaking and using their information for criminal activities. We worry about our digital safety every day, but thankfully, there are ways to curb the dangers, such as creating strong passwords.
Your password is key to your personal information, and when they fall into the wrong hands, it can lead to theft, scams, or identity theft.
Creating strong and secure passwords is easier said than done, though. How can we make sure we follow the right advice and not end up losing to theft and scams?
You might not have an idea what makes a password strong and unhackable. But you’re not alone.
We’ve been there too! We’ve used really common and weak passwords before, and we had family members and friends who’ve fallen into the same mistakes.
Hackers are using more sophisticated strategies by the day. So, we looked into the latest about creating a secure password and asked some experts about their best tips.
In the end, we share a unique tip that will make your password very sophisticated yet easy to remember.
An unhackable password uses a combination of at least six different techniques. Missing out on even one of these tips could make your password vulnerable to cracking. So read without skipping, and don’t miss out!
How secure is your password?
We have keys and codes to protect our things in real life, but passwords remain our protectors in the digital world. They keep our social media, bank, and other personal accounts safe from suspicious activities and hackers.
Naturally, we want to keep your passwords private to ensure total protection, especially when it comes to financial information and other confidential data.
As much as the digital world ensures convenience and accessibility, it’s also the breeding ground for cybercriminals that want to gain from our miseries. They hack bank accounts and social media to steal information for monetary gain.
Once cybercriminals access your accounts, they can easily change passwords, scam your contacts, and engage in other criminal activities. The worst part is that they can use your name and identity—along with all of your confidential information.
How do hackers get your password?
Hackers follow a systematic approach when figuring out passwords. They don’t get your password or PIN by simply guessing. Instead, they work with a digital toolbox of software platforms and databases that work seamlessly to produce combinations that might work.
Keep in mind that hackers also usually have access to stolen information from data breaches, which usually happen to online services, such as social media. Hackers compile breached data into large databases, which they then analyze and use.
From these opportunities, hackers perform “credential stuffing.” Here, they use software tools, such as bots, to test countless username and password combinations based on your personal information (e.g., birth date, name of your pets, etc.) until they successfully log on to an account, including social media and bank accounts.
According to Forbes, a 2020 audit detected around 15 billion stolen passwords from up to 100,000 cybersecurity breaches. Many of these attacks likely happened due to phishing, where hackers send fraudulent emails to deceive users. These emails essentially mimic legitimate online services by tricking people into giving away personal information.
How does this happen? Phishing victims usually end up clicking links on the email that directs them to a login page that looks legitimate. They fill out credentials, which gives hackers the chance to harvest their details.
How long would it take for a computer to guess your password?
A computer can calculate instantly—and that includes guessing passwords. A computer can guess a standard password of 8 letters instantly, but adding an uppercase letter can extend those mere seconds to 22 minutes.
So, the more complicated your password is, the better. A complex 12-character password, for instance, can take 34,000 years for a computer to crack.
We’ll talk more about building passwords later.
What are passphrases vs. passwords?
People often use the terms “passwords” and “passphrases” interchangeably because they both refer to passcodes, but there are stark differences between the two. You can use either one to secure your online accounts, and both consist of words, letters, and other characters.
They’re different because passwords use only one word, with the sole purpose of deterring hackers from accessing your online accounts. Passphrases, on the other hand, comprise phrases, sentences, or statements that can be up to 10 words—and can be difficult to crack.
How to build, store, and maintain strong password
Building a strong password can be a tricky business, especially since many of us tend to forget the letters and numbers we use in the first place.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to build, store, and maintain strong passwords depends on your individual threat model and security needs,” Morshed Alam, the founder of Savvy Programmer, shares. “However, there are some general tips that can help you create and manage strong passwords in a more secure way.”
Here are some tips, along with what the experts have to say:
Use password generators
Password generators are online tools that create custom passwords for users. It means that you can have access to combinations that hackers would need all the time in the world to crack.
You need to be discerning when it comes to password generators, though. Their software systems are programmed to work differently.
“A good rule of thumb is to aim for passwords that are at least 16 characters long,” Morshed stresses, “The longer and more random your password is, the more difficult it will be for an attacker to crack.”
For this reason, make sure to choose a password generator that uses a 16-character combination of numbers, special characters, and letters. Here are some of the best generators to try, all for free:
Consider password managers to store credentials
Which is the safest and most convenient way to store passwords? Some browsers like Google Chrome allow you to store and manage your passwords. But how safe are Google-saved passwords?
The passwords you save on Google Chrome aren’t as secure as they would be if you use dedicated managers, as hackers could still access them if they bypass your browser security.
Sahil Kakkar, CEO of WebSignals, shares: “I suggest you use a [dedicated] password manager. By using a password manager, you can forget about remembering your passwords since the password manager maintains track of them for you.”
Some of the best password manager applications Sahil Kakkar recommended are the following:
Many password managers come with a price, though, depending on the platform you’ll purchase.
If you’re unsure about your password strength, you can use a reliable password checker to assess its security.
Avoid using common and easily guessed passwords
What are the most hacked passwords? They’re passwords that contain your names, pet names, homes, and so on.
So, intuitively, you shouldn’t use your name, pet’s names, birthdate, and other common passwords like “password” or “1234.”
Change your passwords regularly
To maintain excellent password strength, it’s also important to change it as regularly as possible. It’s also important not to use the same password for more than one account.
Use complex jargon
You can also use complex jargon and languages in your passwords.
“The best ways to building, storing, and maintaining passwords is by using a complex password with academic jargon,” Marcus Nielsen, Editor-in-Chief of LaptopBlogger states.
“A complex password is one that is made up of different types of characters, including numbers, letters, and symbols. It is important to create a strong password that is difficult to guess.”
Use words from a different language
Here’s a unique tip: you can use another language that you know of aside from English. If you speak Chinese, for instance, you can use a Chinese phrase to add to your password.
This can be difficult to hack, as cracking techniques rely on the English language, including English dictionaries. Having a password in a different language helps to circumvent these techniques. It’s easy to remember because it could be a phrase you hold dear to your heart but in a language that you know.
Still, it’s not completely foolproof, so you can combine it with other lesser-known techniques.
Why robust password security is critical today
Although the digital world is a powerful connector, it also poses a danger—and even our friends and loved ones aren’t completely safe.
Shiela (not her real name), a good friend of ours, is a victim of social media fraud. She tried to use her Facebook account one day, only to realize that she no longer had access to the account. Her family members began messaging her, saying they’d sent P10,000 ($189) to her bank account because she “asked” for financial help.
To her horror, she realized that whoever hacked her Facebook began messaging friends and family for money, pretending to be her. Although she acted quickly and informed her friends and family, the hacker had already solicited a total of P60,000 ($1,133) from unsuspecting loved ones.
For this reason, it’s important to keep your digital safety your top priority. Having a secure password keeps your account safe, your data away from prying eyes, and money untouched in bank accounts. Hackers can easily crack weak passwords, which can wreak havoc not just on your life but also on the lives of friends and family.
Today’s world is connected now more than ever. We shop, save money, and communicate online through various accounts. But this also means danger to our privacy and personal information.
It’s important to be smart and vigilant, and more often than not, this means relying on prevention rather than cure. As you build your new passwords, remember to keep the tips above in mind to make them secure and unhackable!