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Passwords—Can’t Live With ‘em, Can’t Live Without ‘em

Created: 17 Mar 2010 16:21:15 GMT • Updated: 23 Jan 2014 18:28:50 GMT
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People choose their passwords based on different factors: how easy they are to remember, how strong or complex they are, the sentimental value they have, etc. Symantec has developed a survey to show how you compare to others with your password considerations. The one to two minute survey can be found at http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22AD7J2UVLB. Don’t worry, it doesn’t ask you for your passwords.  Some of you may have also noticed that this survey is not being run off the Symantec website—good catch. Our readers are clearly not the type to fall for a phishing attack. Don’t worry, we’ve checked it out, this link is safe to use. Give it a whirl; we’d love to see how we’re all doing as a group at keeping our sensitive accounts and information safe.

The fact is, hackers can get through any password if they’re given enough time. Your goal should be to make it as painful as possible for them. The name of your child or pet is not going to accomplish that, regardless of how much you love them or how much you like their name.

Hackers use a couple of methods to get past passwords. If they don’t try to trick the computer into letting them through, they use software called “brute force dictionaries.” This software makes as many attempts as necessary to guess the password. Unfortunately, 123456 and HHHHHH are not going to take long to stumble upon.

Because no one wants a password they can’t remember, a compromise has to be made between strength and ease of use. Here are some tips and ideas for choosing a strong password that you can remember, and that won’t take longer than dial-up Internet to type in:

•    Use a mix of numbers, letters, punctuation, and symbols
•    Take a word or phrase that’s meaningful to you and alter it
•    Replace the first few characters in your password with numbers or symbols
•    The longer the better
•    Avoid personal information, repetition, sequences, and dictionary words

While some passwords protect trivial information, other passwords keep information that, if lost or stolen, could cause a lot of damage. Don’t make it easy for hackers. Make their efforts so tedious that they get tired and move on to someone who hasn’t read this blog.

Stay tuned. We’ll update this information based on what we learn from the survey.