Looking back at the events of the last year it is not difficult to see that everyone can be a target of a cyber attack. As a result of the Federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach millions of individuals received notification that their information, and the information of their families and colleagues, was part of what was compromised in the breach. The question that may come immediately to mind is, “What can I do to protect myself?” Governmental agencies, businesses of all sizes, and individuals are examining ways to implement more explicit security measures across the enterprise to protect company, employee, and client data. It is no longer a question of “if” your data will be breached, but a question of “when” and “how badly”. Taking simple steps up front may lessen the damage in the long run, or dissuade attackers from spending the time to go after your information to begin with.
The first step in protecting your data is a strong password. Without a strong password in use and by not changing your passwords often (every 90 days as a minimum), cyber attackers/criminals have an easy job of stealing your information and possibly your identity/credit. Creating strong passwords that are easy to remember may seem like a daunting task, but it is in fact quite simple. Below are some tips on generating strong passwords that will help you to protect your data and the data of your loved ones. Remember there is no magic bullet that will guarantee 100% protection, but by beginning with a strong password and following information security best practices you can make yourself a more difficult and much less appealing target for criminals. Most times this is all it takes.
TIPS FOR A STRONGER PASSWORD
A strong password:
- Is at least eight characters long, but stronger passwords should contain 16-20 (pass phrase).
- Does not contain your user name, real name, or company name.
- Does not contain a complete word.
- Should be completely different from any previous password.
- Contains characters from each of the following four categories:
- Uppercase letters
- Lowercase letters
- Symbols found on the keyboard (all keyboard characters not defined as numbers or letters).
A password might meet all the criteria above and still be a weak password:
- Hello2U! meets all the criteria for a strong password listed above, but is still weak because it contains a complete word.
- H3ll0 2 U! is a stronger alternative because it replaces some of the letters in the complete word with numbers and also includes spaces.
Help yourself remember your strong password by following these tips:
- Create an acronym from an easy-to-remember piece of information.
- Pick a phrase that is meaningful to you, such as ‘My son’s birthday is 12 December, 2004.’
- Using that phrase as your guide, you might use Msbi12/Dec,4 for your password.
- Substitute numbers, symbols, and misspellings for letters or words in an easy-to-remember phrase.
- My son’s birthday is 12 December, 2004 could become Mi$un’s Brthd8iz 12124 (it’s OK to use spaces in your password!).
- Relate your password to a favorite hobby or sport.
- I love to play badminton could become ILuv2PlayB@dm1nt()n.