Different reports indicate that a large number of cyber breaches leveraged either stolen or weak passwords and that problem is further compounded because one of the biggest risks to data security is the reuse of passwords across accounts. If one of the accounts is compromised and your user name and password are posted on the dark web, cybercriminals who know how often passwords are reused will simply begin to plug that information into other possible accounts until they unlock one that uses the exact same credentials.
According to the Verizon report, this is a common risk, as 83% of people have admitted to reusing passwords across multiple sites. Even if it is safe to reuse passwords on accounts that don’t house sensitive data – a breach there can be used as an entryway to move laterally across networks in search of critical business data or personally identifiable information (PII).
“Cyber adversaries are constantly tweaking their tradecraft to ensure successful intrusions in order to generate consistent revenue and profit. If your password is guessed or stolen, you may never know it happened until anomalous purchases appear in your bank account. And even more, challenging data accessed by leveraging your compromised account may simply be used to move up the chain.” Said Rajesh Maurya, Regional Vice President, India & SAARC, Fortinet “Implementing a strong passphrase is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself, your devices, personal and corporate data from cyber threats. The basic rule of thumb is, the longer and more complex the password, the more difficult it is to crack”
Short, simple passwords take fewer resources for hackers to compromise. In fact, hackers maintain databases of the most common words, phrases, and number combinations that they can run your password through to find a quick match. Some of the most common passwords are baseball and football team names, any variant of 123456789, and QWERTY. Avoid using common password themes when creating a passphrase, such as the following:
- Phone numbers
- Names including movies and sports teams
- Simple obfuscation of a common word (“[email protected]$$w0rd”)
The best password is a strong passphrase, impossible to forget and difficult to guess, even for someone who knows personal details of your life like the name of the street you live. When creating new accounts or updating well-used passwords Fortinet security experts recommend to keep these six best practices in mind to minimize password-based cyber risk:
1. Add an extra layer of security, use multi-factor authentication wherever possible. This confirms your identity by utilizing a combination of multiple different factors, such as something you know or something they have, such as a token generator on your smartphone.
2. Never repeat the same password for different accounts.
3. Change your passphrase at least every three months. This will lock out cybercriminals who may be using your account, protect you from brute force attacks, and remedy the issue caused by cybercriminals who purchase lists of usernames and passwords obtained through data breaches.
4. Ensure no one is watching as you enter passwords.
5. Be cautious when downloading files from the internet as they may contain key loggers as well as password grabber malware variants that will compromise your password. A good practice is to regularly scan for the presence of such malware.
6. Use a cloud-based password manager to enable you to create and store strong passphrases. This is especially important if you require strong passwords for dozens of accounts. Password management tools allow you to securely store an encrypted list of passwords in the cloud that can be accessed from any device. Not only will you only need to remember one password to access your password locker, but the passwords you store there for your various accounts can also be even stronger because you don’t have to remember them.