Passwords are like security locks in our digital lives. Whether it is a social networking site, banking site, informational website, or any other web resource that requires you to create an account, a password is a must. But it has created a new problem for Internet users.
Every year, millions of user accounts are hacked due to one simple reason; creating a generic password. Creating a secure and unique password is the only safeguard against a data breach by cracking the password. Coming up with and remembering many complex passwords isn’t easy though and this is where password managers come in.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t create a strong password manually. To do so, you only need to know the thumb rule for password creation. Here we’ve prepared a 360-degree guide to help you in creating a strong password on your own, plus the five best password managers to use.
How to Create a Strong Password
You must know how you can create a password that no one can breach or hack. These are some best tips for ensuring great password security:
1. Do Not Use Personal Information
This is a very common mistake that most people make when creating a password. It is agreed that your personal information is very easy to remember, but it is also too easy for hackers to guess. Never use your name, surname, partner’s name, pet’s name, anniversary date, birth date, etc., as passwords. You must strictly avoid using such personal info.
2. Change Passwords at Regular Intervals
It is a very successful practice against hacking that you keep changing your passwords at regular intervals. If you share your password with anyone, change it afterward.
If you allow your computer/laptop to be used by anyone else, do change the passwords. If you think that there has been a breach in your device, change your password instantly, without even waiting for proof.
Even if you do not have any of the reasons mentioned above, regularly changing your passwords won’t harm you; instead, it will strengthen your online security.
3. Different Accounts, Different Passwords
Having numerous accounts means numerous passwords. People find it quite easy to keep the same password for every account which is a major reason why most hackings take place easily.
So, if a hacker finds out your password, he can access every account you own if you don’t set up different passwords. It sounds scary, right? Well, it is. There are several keys on your keyboard, and the best among all of them for creating passwords are symbol keys and number keys, which allow you to create an unlimited number of password combinations.
If you cannot decide on a password, you can always use a password generator, like 1Password. It creates unique passwords every time with the help of random letters and symbols, which are safe, secure, reliable, and convenient.
4. Long Passwords
Every website asks you to create a password that is at least 8 characters long, but password managers say that your password should be at least 12 characters long. It’s because a long password is a little harder to guess than a smaller, say six-digit, password.
5. Unintelligent modifications
You are always informed while creating passwords that they should contain symbols as well as numbers. But most people use a character or a symbol after their names, at the beginning of the passwords, etc., which is very unintelligent and easy to guess for the hackers. These small modifications don’t help much.
6. Generic Passwords
Using a common phrase as a password is the silliest mistake one makes while creating passwords. Some most common phrases used are: “123456”, “Iforgotmypassword”, and “qwerty”.
Your password is always protected if it is unpredictable. A password’s security can be measured in terms of its unpredictability. The more unpredictable your password is, the more secure your account is from hackers.
Even if you choose your favorite book’s name as a password, it is predictable. Sometimes people use everything from the Bible to Gita to create a strong password, but hackers predict them and access their passwords.
When you are asked to be random, it becomes the most difficult task. Is it so difficult to just choose a combination of random numbers and make it your password? You can also create a random phrase that makes no sense to anyone else excluding you, such as “RedRuby!Sleepyc@t”. It is nothing but a strong password.
9. Never Reuse a Password
Never use a password that you have used before. Some websites do inform you and do not allow you to use a previously used password for your account, and that’s entirely for your safety.
These are simple tips, aren’t they? All you need to do is to keep them in mind. But this is not enough. Even if you have strong passwords in place, your account may be at risk due to some other reasons.
How to Check the Strength of your Password
“How secure is my password?”, you can answer this question yourself with the help of these password strength factors. The strength and security of a password can be judged by these factors:
- How long does it take to crack your password?
- It is a unique password, which has never been used or breached.
- It is long, and does it include alphanumeric characters or symbols?
- How unpredictable is it?
First, you must know how hackers hack your password so that you know what measures you should take against them. These are some of the most common ways of doing it:
- Dictionary Attack – When you use common dictionary words in your password, hackers can hack your password in a second. This is called a dictionary attack, i.e., guessing your password easily and using different combinations to find out the correct one.
- Credential Stuffing – The attackers use a list of breached credentials and use them in other web applications with the help of bots to gain access. You are vulnerable to these types of attacks if you use the same username along with passwords for different accounts.
- Brute Force Attacks – When a hacker is adamant about guessing your username and password, he uses a brute force attack, which involves trial and error. The hacker uses a computer program and simply guesses your username and password.
- Phishing Technique – When you are compelled to share your information or credential via unfair means, e.g., fraudulent emails, it is called the phishing technique. These are popularly done via emails and messages. These emails and messages look genuine, which entraps a user to reveal information.
Why should I improve my password safety?
When you are online, your data is always at risk. Whether you are accessing your mail, official mail, or accessing your work network, you are always prone to attack by hackers.
The main thing that makes you more vulnerable to cyber attacks is weak passwords, and not changing passwords on a regular basis increases your risk.
According to various research, 85% of online security breaches are due to a human element, like phishing or weak and reused passwords, and 65% of people use the same password or a variation for multiple accounts despite knowing that it’s a security risk.
Every password has the potential to be vulnerable. And if it isn’t secure, it becomes easier to crack. Reusing passwords increases your risk as hackers know that convenience is essential to users. Retrying login credentials and simple variations that worked on one system are likely to work on another. Therefore, one should improve the safety of passwords used to access personal data, mail, banking, eCommerce, etc.
5 Best Password Managers
There are several online and offline tools available on the Internet which help you take charge of all your passwords from one place. Following are the 5 best password managers to use:
It is one of the most popular password managers. You can download the app for Android as well as iOS and check your passwords. However, it does not check for past breaches but suggests how you can make your password stronger.
If you simply want to check your password strength and security, you don’t need to sign up anywhere or download anything. Just go to the website, enter your password and get the result. It does not provide you with any tips but only informs you if your password is common or if it uses a word. It also informs you about past data breaches for your password.
NordPass not only checks your password but also helps you create new passwords and lets you share them with your friends and family. You can go to the website and check your password for strength and security.
It checks whether your password is 12-characters long or not and if it contains lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols, and punctuations, or not. How much time it would take to crack your password, and if it has been engaged in any past breaches? For more advanced features, you can download the app.
How Secure is My Password is a very simple tool that does not require any downloading or signing up. Just enter your password, and it will inform you of the shortcomings of your password.
It provides not only password-related help but also provides other security services like VPN, cloud services, antivirus, etc. The tool explains if your password contains a dictionary word, if it lacks the use of symbols or special characters, and guides you on how you can improve your password.
None of these tools guarantee that your password will never be hacked. Especially, Comparitech issues a disclaimer regarding the same before you check your password. But these password checkers are very effective in creating strong passwords.
How do Password Managers Work
Password Managers are computer applications that help you in creating random and unique passwords for your different accounts. They are known for creating strong and random passwords, but not all of them are as useful as they claim to be. You can find several local websites and web-based password managers, which are not reliable.
The local websites use pseudo-random phenomenon. These generators create passwords that look like random passwords but can be hacked by hackers by investing a little time. In short, they are not as secure as they look.
Password managers like Nordpass, How Secure is My Password, Kaspersky, Comparitech, etc., use Cryptographically Secure Pseudo-Random Number Generators, which not only use random numbers and symbols to create passwords but also take into account unpredictable hardware source data such as keyboard press time, mouse movement, etc.
These tools are password protected themselves, which helps you to mitigate the risk of data theft from your computer. They help you create strong 16-character long passwords, which are hard to be hacked. They check your password and inform you if it has been hacked in any data breach earlier, if it is long enough, if it is generic, and if it can be breached.
The collection of these hardware sources is called collecting entropy, which is gathered by your operating system. The password managers store your passwords within an encrypted format in secure databases either in your system or in the cloud.
Advanced Tactics Used by Password Managers
What if you could know that your password has been breached before? To answer this question of millions of Internet users, Security Researcher Troy Hunt created “haveibeenpwned” in December 2019. The aim of the tool was simple: to tell you if the password you entered had been breached before.
When you create a password, the system runs it through the database to check if the password is secure or not. It will show you the message that your password is not secure. The popular website 1password has also collaborated with Hunt’s API to build a breached password checker in its system.
Other than this, many websites do not allow you to paste a password. This is also an effective tool against password theft. Many people keep passwords on their systems in a file. They simply copy and paste them on the websites, serving their passwords to the hackers on a platter.
Another tool to combat password theft is multi-stage authentication. It is a commonly used tactic in banks and financial institutions. Several companies are also using the same strategy to protect their sensitive data from external attacks.
Additional Tips for Safe Browsing
Even if you have created strong passwords for your accounts, if a hacker gets access to your system, there is a greater possibility that your password will be hacked.
Most of the time, people use desktops and laptops to access important websites and accounts. Thus, you should consider some safety measures for your computer as well to ensure maximum security for your online accounts. Some of them are:
- Websites you’re Accessing should be SSL Certified- When you access a website, you can see a lock in the left corner of the search box, which is a sign that the website you are accessing is secured.
This security is ensured by an SSL certificate – Secure Sockets Layer, which encrypts the end and does not allow the information you are accessing to be seen by other computers.
A pop-up in red appears when the website is not SSL certified. It is your choice to move ahead with it. Such websites are one of the main tools for hackers to steal sensitive information.
- Always Use Anti-Virus Software- For every computer, laptop, and even mobile phone, having antivirus software is mandatory. It is the basic need of a device to provide it with strong protection against data breaches.
Numerous anti-virus software is available on the market. You can choose one as per your budget and requirements.
- Regular Updation of Software – Update your software whenever the updates are available. These updates include several features, including security. As your browser is the first point of contact with the Internet, keep it updated.
Some security measures are built-in to your operating system as well. It is also imperative to keep your operating system up-to-date. You can opt for automatic updation as manual updation may be time-consuming, and you can easily forget it.
- Use Adblocker – Most hackers use emails and ads to get access to your computer. You see an ad, you try to close but instead, you are redirected to an unknown page. You may close it, but the damage is done.
Similarly, phishing emails are written in such a way that they sound very important. If you open them and click on them, they ask for your sensitive information and steal your credentials.
- Use of VPN – A Virtual Proxy Network is a tool, which is broadly used by companies and several organizations around the world to protect their data. This tool encrypts your data to protect it from third parties, such as your Internet provider.
It sends your data to the VPN server, which encrypts it before sending it to the Internet servers. It maintains your privacy by making sure that only you can see your data.
- Clear Cache and Cookies – The first thing you have to do when you visit a website is to accept the cookies, as many websites do not even let you continue your search without doing so.
It fills up your browser with unwanted cookies and browser cache. Do clear your cookies and cache every once in a while. You can do it manually, or you can automate the process.
Prevention is, always, better than cure. These small precautionary measures can save you from huge mishaps, which are usually in the world of the Internet.
If you are serious about your online security, you should get a password manager now to manage your passwords for different accounts. Make sure with these state-of-the-art tools and tips mentioned that “how secure is my password” is no longer a baffling question for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Are password managers really secure?
Password managers are protected by a master password. You just need to store all of your passwords in a password manager, and that’s it. Whenever you want to access a website, just enter the master password, and you are good to go. You must create a strong and secure master password, though.
2. When can I say that my password is secure?
A password’s strength is its uniqueness, its length, and the characters used in creating it. Your password must have a mix of lowercase and uppercase alphabets, special characters, and numbers. It should not contain any dictionary words, and should not be based on your personal info.
When you use a password checker, it shows you how much time it will take to crack it. The more time it takes, the stronger it is. The password checkers estimate that a hacker can run billions of combinations to hack your password to let you devise your password accordingly.
3. What to do when my password is leaked?
If you have any doubt that your password has been leaked, change it immediately without waiting for any proof. Also, do not use it for any other accounts. Password managers inform you if your password has been breached whenever you enter a password. For every account, use a different password.
4. Where should I store my passwords?
There is no better place than a password manager for storing your passwords. A password manager stores your password in an encrypted form in a secure database. Never store your passwords in a file saved on your computer.
5. What does it mean by encrypted password?
Password managers store your passwords in an encrypted form, which means that the password is converted into a code language that is unreadable to any third party. Only the receiving end can decrypt it to see it. In this way, your password stays protected.
6. What if I do not use a password manager?
If you do not use a password manager, even though it is strongly recommended, you must know the general tips to create a strong password.
Such as never use a dictionary word, never use your personal information, create a random combination of symbols, numbers, and characters that is meaningless, and most importantly, make it long enough, i.e., 12-16 characters long.
7. What are the risks of a weak password?
Weak passwords are guessable and make it easy for cybercriminals or hackers to gain access to your accounts, steal your identity and even take your money. Therefore, make sure to use random strings of special characters and at least 12 characters long passwords to make them strong and difficult to breach by evil minds. One can also use a Password Strength Meter to check how strong a password is.
8. Are your password practices secure?
Your password practices are secure if you are:
- Not sharing passwords with anyone
- Using different passwords for different accounts
- Using multi-factor authentication
- Using a password manager to store different passwords
- Using complex passwords with at least 12 characters
9. Is Google password checkup safe?
Google Password Checkup keeps your Google account unaffected by cyber attacks.
10. What are the Do’s and Don’ts of password security?
Do’s and Don’ts of password security are:
- Make easy-to-remember passwords.
- Make different passwords for different accounts.
- Use a password manager like Norton Password Manager to securely store and manage your passwords in an encrypted vault that only you can access.
- Don’t keep a password for too long.
- Don’t make small passwords.
- Don’t store your password on your computer.
- Don’t make a guessable password.
11. What is the most difficult password to hack?
A password that is a mix of lower- and uppercase alphabets, special characters, numerics, and having at least 12 characters is considered the most difficult password to hack.
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