Data Protection 101 – Your password

Data Protection 101 – Your password

August 29

The best way to keep your data is safe may be even simpler than you think. As part of your overall business continuity plan, there are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself right now, and the easiest one is to create new, stronger passwords.

In many cases, your password is the only thing between a hacker and your personal or business data. According to CRN, Mitt Romney’s email account was compromised after a hacker guessed “Seamus” as the answer to the security question, “what is your favorite pet?” How easily can someone (or something) guess your password?

A Strong Password is a Complex Password

The NY times has offered some suggestions on how to make your passwords stronger and more secure. Here’s a summary:

The Problem:

Many people make passwords that are simple and easy to remember. They often use the same password for multiple sites (IT World reports that users average twenty five website accounts with only six and a half total passwords). They will also rely on simple security questions to help them if they forget their passwords.

Hackers can discover simple passwords in as little as a few minutes. They will use a program designed to go through different passwords, one at a time, rapidly guessing at your password until it finds a match. Once the program has a match, the hacker can now access all the sites where you had the same password. When it comes to a site’s security questions (used for password recovery if you happen to forget), your mother’s maiden name or your favorite pet might seem difficult to guess. But often hackers can easily find the information on the net and access your account.

The Solution:

Complex passwords are one of the best ways to keep your information safe. Here’s a few ways you can make your password stronger:

  • Make sure your password is six or more digits long
  • Includes as many special characters as you’d like
  • Includes both upper and lower case letters, and numbers.

While complex passwords are much stronger, they are more difficult to remember. They are also more likely to be written down and left in compromising places. Luckily, hackers haven’t figured out how to hack into the human computer, so the safest place for your password is your brain.

How to Create a Safe Password

Managing gazillions of passwords is tough on the human computer; however, there are plenty of programs that can help: KeePass is one of them, and it’s free! For advice on where or how to store your password, the NY Times has more tips. Now, however, let’s create some new, safer passwords:

Suppose for you could:

  1. Start with a simple phrase, “I love to buy books online.”
  2. Next, remove the spaces “Ilovetobuybooksonline.”
  3. Now, use bad grammar and spelling, “Ilervtobeyeberksonlern.”
  4. Now, add numbers and special characters. Microsoft suggests using numbers meaningful to you, but you should try to avoid personal information like birthdays, social security digits, and so on.
  5. We add a few numbers and what we have now is, “Ilervtobeyeberksonlern!360”. You can check a password’s strength using a password strength checker.

Once again, don’t use the same password twice. This is a tough one, and there are probably few among us that can confidently say they have no duplicate passwords, but this is important. Too often accounts are all tied together by the same password. The more access a hacker has, the more of your personal and business information can be accessed.

Last but not least, change passwords often. suggests changing passwords at least every three to six months. This will add another layer of safety to your password protection.

Strong Security Questions

As for security questions, I mentioned that the answers to these can often be found online by hackers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful tools. A question like, “what is your favorite pet” could have an answer that you select as purposely wrong. “Bill Cosby is the man of my dreams” is likely an impossible answer to guess from the given question (or probably any question, really).

We want everyone’s data to be safe, regardless of the threat. Your backup and disaster recovery plan is a part of your larger business continuity plan, and by implementing a professional or personal password protection protocol, you can effectively manage the risk of data thievery.  Once again, the biggest things you can do are often done by taking the simplest measures. Taking the time to reset your passwords may seem like an arduous and boring procedure, but it is another step toward preparing for and protecting yourself from a disaster.