In a previous article, we addressed the importance of strong passwords and listed the most common ones used in recent years. Now, let’s talk a little about the “psychology of passwords” and find out what’s behind the choices we make.
We’re all aware that a password with strength should include upper and lower case letters, numerals, and special characters, but let’s face it – they’re hard to remember! So, what do we do? Despite better judgment, we err on the lazy side and make poor choices. No question – knowing the right thing to do and then actually doing it are two very different things!
Yes, there are many who are still using the passwords they started with when the Internet was in its youth. And yes, there are still the fortunate many whose account(s) haven’t been hacked, despite having feeble passwords. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right? Wrong, when it comes to passwords. You may have been lucky these past 20 or so years, but eventually that dark day will come, so don’t wait for an account to be compromised.
It’s good practice to regularly change passwords and to make sure they’re strong. Studies conducted on passwords in recent years found that more than 60% of breaches were a direct result of weak, default or stolen passwords. And while most of these passwords were a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols (just like they’re supposed to be), they were far too familiar to make them unique.
Initials or names of family and friends were among the most common passwords, followed by birthdates, pet names, hometowns, and school names or mascots. These passwords will not pass the test of time – any hacker worth the name of hacker can and will find the Achilles heel in your “secret codes” sooner or later.
The takeaway is pretty transparent. Don’t make passwords easy to guess by using personal information – scammers can find that info in a flash on social networking sites. And for pity’s sake, don’t use common words or number sequences. That’s akin to asking for trouble.
What you should do is get creative using deliberate misspellings. If a word begins with “f” use “ph”, for example. Replace the “l” in a word with an ampersand or exclamation point. You get the picture.
Probably the most common reason for anemic passwords is that complex ones are just too darn difficult to remember. Here is where a password manager can save the day. These apps keep track of passwords for you, automatically help you create strong passwords, and in short, simplify your online life. Those using password managers just have to remember one password. It’s something to think about if you’re looking for a little more safety and security in this day and age when both safety and security take extra effort.