Passwords and computer security

Passwords and computer security will always be a topic. Every year, for a very long time now, there has been a list of the most common passwords used. Passwords that are simple and thereby easy to hack. There is a balance that every user faces between convenience and security. When something is very easy to remember it is more convenient. Most times it is also less secure or not secure at all. The same way an insanely secure password does no good if the user can’t remember it. Now however with tools like password managers, 2 factor authentication and internet browsers that store passwords it’s a little different.

Here is a 2014 list of the most commonly used passwords. Many on the list have been there for years and have just gone either up or down the list. There is also a great post on Ars Technica about why these lists can be a bit misleading. Although I think that some users are getting more knowledgable and more concerned about their online security. There are still users out there who have no clue why they should use a secure password or how to make one. Which is why I figured I’d do my part to try and educate as many people as possible. I made a video, linked below, of how easy it is to create a secure password.

Will this video or even this post mean there wont be a list of commonly used passwords next year? Absolutely, Positively, not! I’m not naive enough to think it will even make a dent in the number of people using bad passwords. However if it helps even one person make their computing life more secure it was worth the effort. The way I look at it is, the more important your information is the more secure your password should be. If the thought of anyone seeing or having access to it makes you cringe. Why would you give anyone access to it with a simple password? Computers are getting more ultra powerful with each model. Hackers have tools to crack passwords and the more powerful computers get the faster these tools work. One of the first things they do is load up the list of most commonly used passwords and try those. If the accounts they are trying to hack use any of those passwords 90% of the job is already done. Which is why if you use any of those passwords you need to change it like yesterday.

The first point of contact for people to get online is their computer. In my opinion this is the first place that needs a secure password. All of the user’s accounts (email, social network, bank site, etc) should have a separate and secure password. But to start out make sure your computer(s) has a secure password. It’s also probably the place where people will type the password the most. As I said before a secure password is no good if the user can’t remember it. So once you create it write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet/purse. You want to have it somewhere that’s easily accessible and somewhere only you can accesss it. This means don’t stick it to your monitor or put it under your keyboard. After a week or two your muscle memory will kick in and you probably wont even need to use that piece of paper anymore.

Peoples’ increasing online presence and the proliferation of email services and social networks. Means that the idea of having separate secure passwords for each one would make anyone slink away afraid. However there are password managers which I’ll go into in another upcoming post. Also for now using slight variations on the secure password you create is better than continuing to use a simple and commonly used password. Also  the 2-Factor authentication now offered by a lot of sites, services and networks adds another layer of security as well. Plus most of the internet browsers now offer to remember passwords. Again this goes back to the security/convenience balance. It is more convenient to use this feature but that makes the browser a target because of the information it holds.

Watch the video, make some secure passwords and Stay tuned!