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Passwords – The Computer’s First Line of Defense

You know that the first line of defense in protecting your car from thieves is to take your keys.  To guard your home and contents – lock your doors.  But are you doing the same for your computer systems? Many people do not.  Take a look at the list of the top passwords used in 2012.

Password, 123456, 12345678, abc123, qwerty, monkey, letmein, 111111, iloveyou, 123123, welcome and password1.

Any of them look familiar?  If you are honest and admit that one or more of these may be found in your password file, it’s a good time to look at some safe password techniques.

First, if the password is easy to remember, it may not be safe.  You may have used personal information such as a birthday, name or other information that a little research may reveal.  Or it is possible that the password has been used for numerous sites you visit giving an intruder multiple wins with one password hack.  If the password is readable such as “mycomputer123” your computer is not secure.  Stay away using these forms of passwords as well as commonly used phrases and acronyms found in the dictionary.

Second, take advantage of websites that shows you password strength as you create it or go to www.passwordmeter.com to test out a potential string. A strong password typically includes uppercase letters, numbers and some special characters.  The word itself won’t and shouldn’t make sense.  Keep in mind that adding a simple prefix or suffix to make a password like “qwerty1” will not be sufficient.  If you aren’t very creative, a random password generator such as the one found at http://www.pctools.com/guides/password/ can help with creating a strong password.

Lastly, don’t email, text or transmit your passwords using unsecure methods at any time.  Don’t write them down and store them near your computer.  You might think it goes without saying but the first place security auditors look is underneath keyboards or within a pile of sticky-notes attached to a monitor.

So I know what you’re thinking; if they can’t be written down, how do I remember all these cryptic passwords?   Consider a password management solution such as KeePass, Password Safe or LastPass which range in price from free to $30 a month.  These utilities will encrypt and store your passwords and allow you to access them from anywhere including your mobile device while protecting them with one super-strong password.

How long does it take to crack a password?  In case you were wondering, to decrypt six alphanumeric characters with unlimited computing power – 0.000025 seconds.  Add 4 more alphanumeric characters with a symbol and it will now take 2.83 weeks.

Written by Ted Saul, Sr. Staff Writer

Ted Saul is a business coach that assists with Business Plans and Project Management. He holds a master certificate in project management and has earned his MBA from Regis University. Ted can be reached on LinkedIn, TedS787 on Twitter or emailing Ted@tsaul.com.

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