How secure is your password?
With computers more a part of our everyday life than ever before, keeping your computer secure is extremely important. It’s understandable that the thought of trying to memorise a password for each account you have is daunting. Whether it is the password for your email, online banking, online shopping channels, TV/film channel or social media site. Whatever you like to view online requires a password to access content and to protect your personal details. Have you used the same password for years? Do you use the same password for everything?
Almost six million fraud and cyber-crimes were committed last year in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics has said. It estimated there were two million computer misuse offences and 3.8 million fraud offences in the 12 months to the end of March – suggesting fraud is the most common type of crime.21 Jul 2016 www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36854413;
Many websites use a colour system to let you know if they think your password is securing from red (not secure) to green (secure). Also, many websites like you to mix in capital letters with symbols and numbers to help make it difficult for hackers to crack your password.
It may sound confusing and a lot of hassle just so you can look up a recipe for apple crumble but if you have had to enter your personal details to join that website you should protect it the best way you can.
The number of victims of identity theft rose by 57% last year, figures from fraud prevention service Cifas suggest.
The data, taken from 261 companies in the UK, suggests fraudsters are increasingly getting people’s personal information from social media sites.
Cifas said Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn had become a “hunting ground” for identity thieves.
It said there were more than 148,000 victims in the UK in 2015 compared with 94,500 in 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36701297 5th July 2016
What can you do?
Do not use the same password for every online account you have. Passwords should be 12-20 characters long and a mix of letters, numbers, capitals and symbols as mentioned above. It is amazing how many people we see who use words in their passwords or substitution text (replacing letters with numbers) in an attempt to make their passwords secure. Only random characters work, hackers use programs (not very sophisticated) that can hack these sort of passwords in seconds.
Do not include any personal details in your password. Do not use your date of birth or the names of your family as this type of information could be gleaned from social media websites.
Your secure password should only use random characters. Nouns and words (any language) including Leetspeak, should never be used. Leetspeak is a way of replacing letters with a number, in Leetspeak Esthetig would become 357h3716. (If you want to have a play with Leetspeak check out http://www.robertecker.com/hp/research/leet-converter.php?lang=en).
Hackers use software that can crack a password using nouns, dictionary words (any language) and Leetspeak in a matter of seconds.
Change your password regularly and do not use the same one for at least a year.
Most importantly do not share your password and if you think you might have done this accidentally then change it immediately.
We know the thought of trying to remember different passwords for different websites and accounts is still off-putting and “more hassle than it’s worth”. Just think, do you want someone having access to your personal details to use to commit fraud – that might be “more hassle than it’s worth”.
Keeping a book or similar next to your computer is not a good idea. Afterall, if someone breaks in and steals your computer, with the book of passwords they have access to everything in your life, your privacy is the most important thing.
Password keepers such as LastPass are an excellent way to store your passwords. You only need to remember one password, then for every website, LastPass can generate a new password for you and when you visit that site, it will automatically fill the login information.
But beware with password keepers, your master password has to be strong! If it isn’t you are giving the world all your private information.
Finally, remember to ensure you use a strong password as we have outlined here, it is recommended that you change your password regularly. But, we would recommend carrying out a full antivirus scan on your computer before you change any passwords, that way you can be sure you aren’t giving your passwords out to the hackers. We would also recommend using the free version of Malwarebytes (search in Google for malwarebytes.org). Not sure your antivirus software is up to scratch – the current top three are:
- Bitdefender (bitdefender.co.uk)
- Kaspersky (kaspersky.com)
- Mcafee Antivirus Plus (mcafee.com)
(according to PC Magazine, 2017, http://uk.pcmag.com/antivirus-reviews/8141/guide/the-best-antivirus-protection-of-2017)