In our increasingly-connected world, more and more of our lives are being stored online. Our finances, our personal photo albums, the locations we travel to, our most private of thoughts and more are stored online. It is therefore imperative to ensure the passwords we use to protect our precious information are secure enough to keep unauthorised people out.
There are many ways your password can be compromised, including low-tech and high-tech methods regularly used by nefarious people to commit crimes. It is therefore important to practice good password security techniques, such as not writing them down, changing them frequently, and not using “Remember My Password” options on shared computers. These are techniques recommended by companies such as PokerStars Casino, in order for users to keep their accounts secure, and these tips are similar to the advice provided by banks such as First Direct and Bank of America, as well as independent security experts and IT professionals.
What is a Good Password?
Like any piece of physical security, like the walls to your house, digital security is only as strong as its weakest element. In the case of a wall, this would be your window, or your door, whilst in the case of your online accounts, the weak link is your password. It is therefore important to ensure that you have a good password. But what is a good password?
Good passwords are generally made up of combinations of letters, numbers and other characters (such as £$%^&*@#!), and it is generally accepted that passwords should be at least 8 characters in length. The longer a password is, the stronger it is. For example, PokerStars Casino recommends a password length of 14 or more characters, whilst First Direct says it must be at least 8 characters. An example of a good password would be G5fjas&^sdT, but that’s not very easy to remember.
Convenience vs Security
Going back to the example of a physical wall, the most secure way of protecting the objects inside it would be to just build a solid wall all the way around. This creates a problem, though—you can’t get to what’s inside. This is why doors exist, to balance security and convenience. A convenient password could be Password or Chocolatecake. These are very insecure, and are the digital equivalent of leaving your door open for anyone to just walk through.
Some people write their passwords down as a solution to having complicated passwords. However, the advice from the companies like PokerStars Casino and Bank of America is that users should not write them down, especially not in a place where they could be found. In our physical world example, writing your password down would be like leaving the key to your door under the mat; someone will find it and use it to unlock your door.
Use a Password Manager
Security experts recommend not using the same password for multiple accounts and instead having unique ones for each platform or device. This prevents people stealing your password from one website and using it on others, but it means you will have an impossible number of passwords to remember.
Password managers like Lastpass and Dashlane are tools designed to solve this problem. They do this by storing your passwords securely, whilst providing convenience for logging in easily. They provide you with the ability to generate unique, secure passwords for each website, whilst automatically logging you in, provided you signed in to the password manager. They, therefore, provide an efficient balance of security and convenience, whilst speeding up your web surfing by logging you in automatically.
Password managers are recommended by many security experts, such as Troy Hunt (founder of the website “Have I Been Pwned”), and by brands like WIRED magazine and the Verge. Even the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre agrees that password managers have a positive effect on our security.
Secure passwords are important, and this importance is only to get stronger as our lives move more and more online. Therefore, practicing good password security is also going to grow in importance. But the growing demands for longer and more complicated passwords is making it difficult to balance security with convenience. This is where password managers can help, because they generate secure passwords without the need for you to remember them all; they also provide the added benefit of making signing in easy, with login information filled in automatically. This makes password managers a no-brainer for everyone.