“Your password is too weak.”
Chances are, you’ve probably received this message when you were signing up for a new account on that new website. Most pages would ask you to fulfill their password requirements before successfully registering your account, from meeting minimum character limits and adding a mixture of alphanumeric characters.
Gone are the days when you’d be able to use easy passwords for your accounts such as password or 123456 – but this safeguard was more than necessary to keep you and your accounts safe. Such practice is crucial to maintaining a high level of cybersecurity. In the digital world where cyber crimes have only gotten more prevalent, one way to protect yourself from the perils of cyberattacks is to create a culture of strong passwords. Before we get into the best ways to foster this culture of security in different environments, let’s get into why it’s imperative to do so.
Why Is Creating a Culture of Strong Passwords Important?
The most obvious reason why it’s essential to create a culture of strong passwords is for the prevention of data breaches. When you lose data, you lose more than just your data – there are a lot of things you lose that are hidden in plain sight.
First is money. While it’s not your immediate thought when thinking of data breaches, there are huge financial repercussions when an account has been victimized by a clever cyber attacker. For example, if credit card data has been stored and then stolen, a victim might end up surprised with a maxed-out credit card after reading their monthly bill. And no one wants to go through the ordeal of transaction reversals – some of which can take months to process.
For businesses, there are financial ramifications as well. For example, news about your cybersecurity lapses spread like wildfire and you end up losing customer trust. Customers don’t want to engage with businesses that can’t protect their data – hence, you might end up losing chunks of revenue.
In a data breach, there’s one more thing that can be stolen: your identity. Imagine if your personal details were used to process a medical insurance claim, for a treatment you never availed. Yes, you may not have been directly affected by this act of fraud, but you might be reaching your benefits cap depending on your insurance program. And once this occurs, should you need to avail of any health services in the future, you will be denied them.
How to Create a Culture of Strong Passwords
Building an environment, one that prioritizes password security is crucial to everyone – whether you’re on the Internet for personal use or office use. Creating a robust password culture may not be the easiest task in the world, but it’s definitely possible by taking these few steps. Here’s how you can achieve a safe password environment:
First things first: never, ever share your password with anyone – not your sibling, not your spouse, not your best friend of fifteen years, and most especially not that stranger you just met online. There are some personal matters that we must keep to ourselves, and passwords are one of them. You can’t control what others do with your password.
Sharing this information online is especially dangerous, even if the person you intended to share your password with is a trusted individual. For example, you shared this information over the Internet through an unencrypted conversation. Once a hacker attempts to intercept this, it’s game over for you.
Implement Two-Factor Authentication
Do you know how peeling an onion takes some time? It has layers upon layers of skin until you finally reach that bulb. Those are the layers preventing you from being victimized by a cyber attack, and implementing a two-factor authentication scheme in your account is one of them.
Here’s how it works: you log in to your accounts using your usual password, but a prompt typically appears asking you to input a code of some sort – sometimes it’s a six-digit PIN or even a combination of words, depending on the website. This code is sent to a verified email, one that is authorized to receive the code. Once you receive it, all you have to do is input it and you should be able to access your account. To increase security, the validity of these codes usually lasts for only a few minutes – so be sure to type in the code immediately.
Use Different Passwords Across Different Accounts
Using the same password for all your accounts may sound like a great idea, especially for the forgetful ones, but it’s the last thing you should do when you keep your passwords safe. If an attacker brute-forces their way into your account and figures out your password, the first password they would attempt in your other accounts is the same password that was used to access your account. So if you’re choosing a secure password, do not use the same password – or even a variation of it.
Password Managers Are Your Friend
On top of everything that we have to do in our daily lives, we still have to remember our passwords – how else can we gain access to our accounts? Following the previous tip we provided, which was to use different passwords, we know it isn’t exactly easy to memorize your passwords. Heck, you probably don’t even remember what you had for breakfast yesterday!
Fortunately, modern problems require modern solutions. Thanks to the help of password managers, you won’t have to memorize your different passwords. It’s best to use trusted password managers in the market so you can sleep soundly at night without the thought of your passwords getting into the wrong hands.
Change Your Password Regularly
If memorizing or taking note of all your passwords wasn’t difficult enough, you won’t be too pleased to find out that it’s a good cybersecurity practice to change your password frequently. Yes, that means you might have to say goodbye to that combination of jumbled alphanumeric characters that you’ve been using for how many months. Like the other tips, this is an additional safety measure that keeps you and your data secure.
Length Is Just as Important as Complexity
Another excellent practice to keep your passwords safe from the dirty hands of cyber attackers is by keeping your passwords longer. It’s generally suggested to meet a minimum of sixteen characters to keep those hackers away. But that doesn’t mean that you have to neglect complexity. In fact, a combination of both will help bolster your password security.
Always, Always Log Out
When you’re having a stressful day at work, it can get tempting to just clock out exactly at the end of your nine-to-five and leave your computer behind. Know that doing so is a recipe for disaster – and that goes for both your professional and personal life. By giving anyone access to your account, one can expose both personal and company data – affecting both in the process.
Similarly, don’t save your passwords on any device. These passwords serve as keys to confidential information, and saving your password increases the risk of a data breach – especially if your device has been stolen.
Training, Training, Training
In creating a culture of security, education is paramount to instilling the importance of cyber security. After all, it’s one of the weapons you can arm yourself with against clever cyber attackers who are out to get your personal data.
For businesses in particular, cybersecurity training is a must for remote work. A lot of things can go wrong in a remote set-up, and if an employee isn’t conscious about their cybersecurity then you allow your business to be easily exploited. Comprehensive training isn’t a one-time event, in fact, it’s just as important to do it frequently as attackers plot new schemes to steal your precious data.
Conduct Security Risk Assessments
What can go wrong, will go wrong – that’s why it’s best to be prepared. Conducting risk assessments is one way to prevent the worst from happening. These assessments determine which areas need some work, and which areas can threaten your security. Moreover, they expose vulnerabilities when it comes to your password security.
Establish Security Policies
If it’s not documented, you can’t enforce it. For organizations, establishing a security policy is a necessity. Documenting a set of rules clarifies security policies for your employees, and it’s something they could turn back to should they have concerns regarding their security.
Implementing a password policy sets expectations for employees on how to deal with passwords. For example, you can enforce a rule about password changes, that these must be changed every two months,
You see, building a culture that focuses on password security isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are different practices to help you stay safe, but instilling the importance of cybersecurity is similarly crucial. Changing passwords frequently, using password managers, establishing documented security policies, and conducting risk assessments – these are some precautionary measures you can take to keep your passwords protected, whether that be in your professional or personal life. And these measures are what will help you attain the highest level of cybersecurity.