Computer Security and Passwords

Padlock

Weak passwords make data stored on your computer vulnerable. It is important to create and maintain secure passwords. The strength of your security system is only as good as good as the weakest password allowing access to your system.

Passwords ensure only authorized personnel will have access to a system. Unfortunately many users place a priority on convenience over security. They choose passwords that are simple and easy to remember. Simple passwords are easier for hackers to crack.

Improving password quality

Weak passwords are typically proper words that you can find in a dictionary utilizing only letters and no numbers or other type of keyboard character. Using a proper word spelled backwards is also an obvious password choice that could be easily guessed by an unauthorized user. Another popular but weak password choice is a password using personal information, like the user’s birthday or anniversary date or a spouse’s or children’s name. Hackers often have access to users’ personal information which makes guessing these passwords much more likely.

A stronger password is not an everyday word, but which can still be easily remembered. Passwords should include both upper and lower case letters, and numbers and symbols. Users complain that random passwords are difficult to remember and users often write the password down to remember it. Having a password written in an insecure location makes it easy for unauthorized users to find the password and access the system. It is not a problem to write down passwords if you keep those written passwords in a secure location.The trick is to find a password that is easy to remember but hard to guess.

A strong password will require imagination and a good memory. One memory clue some users have found helpful is to construct a sentence that is easy for the user to remember and then use the first letter of each word in the sentence to create the password. Add a symbol or punctuation and some upper and lower case letters and you have a strong password that will be more difficult for others to guess or crack. Some computer systems accept longer passwords and there are certain trends to use pass-phrases instead of passwords. A pass-phrase is an entire sentence used as the password – including punctuation and upper case / lower case spelling. “Jack’s 34th birthday is in the month of December.”

Change Passwords Regularly

It is important to change passwords regularly. A good rule of thumb is to change user passwords every thirty to sixy days. Users will be resistant to change passwords they have finally committed to memory but it is a necessary step to keep data secure.

Use Different Passwords for Access to Different Applications

It is also a good idea not to use the same password for access to multiple applications. Creating more than one password will help ensure that if one password is cracked the hacker will not have access to all your business applications and data.

Conclusion

An ounce of prevention can prevent an expensive security breach of your computer data and applications. If you are a small business without a fulltime IT staff, consider a small investment in a contract with a local IT professional to review your current password policies and practices and to help strengthen your existing computer security practices. Security policies allow to set certain password criteria and expiration settings to be set and once such a security policy is in place it is kind of self-service password security.

This guest post is from Christoph Puetz of DT Advanced, Inc. – DT Advanced is a Denver computer service provider offering IT Consulting and Tech Support services to small businesses.

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