Password security's YOUR responsibility

2015 has been the year of the security breach and if you weren't paying attention before, you'll know by now that your personal data is vulnerable to attack because it's valuable to the bad guys. Companies are duty bound to keep your data secure, but in the face of the number of attempts on a daily basis, this is a tough ask.  Have some of these companies been sloppy? Probably. Do they need more robust systems in place? Definitely. But what about you - does your attitude to Internet security make the grade?

Password Managers can help

The fact is that we are all duty bound to try and keep our data secure. It's not good enough to pass the buck to others. Your responsibility as an Internet user is to make it as difficult as possible for the hackers to be effective by using secure, complex passwords. Saying that you can't remember them all is no excuse, either. There are some really good Password Manager applications available and some are even free - check out PC magazine reviews for recommendations. Password Managers generate complex passwords for you and store them in an encrypted "vault". All you have to do is remember the password to the vault. One password. One. And you don't need to share it, or write it down or save it in your contacts on your phone, because it's the only one you need to remember.

Complex can be simple

If you don't want to use a Password Manager, you need to know how to create and remember decent, complex passwords that are at least 15 characters long and a combination of letters, symbols and numbers. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Don't use real words and don't use obviously familiar things either, like your middle name, DOB or partner's name. 
  2. Don't use keyboard patterns like qwerty or !"£$
  3. Don't use the same password for lots of accounts - you might as well just publish your bank details. 
  4. You can apply "rules" to passwords you create and still keep them complex - make an acronym of the first letters of a memorable phrase (eg a film title or nursery rhyme) to make a nonsense word (eg Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels = lsatsb) as a starting point and expand it out to 15 characters by using symbols, numbers and other letters. 
  5. Change your passwords. If you apply the rules above, changing your passwords shouldn't give you a headache, but it's another layer of defence against the hacker.

How do you know if you're compromised already?

Now you're in the mood for protecting yourself, here's something else you can do.  Check to see if your accounts have already been compromised and do something about it. The site haveibeenpwned.com is run by blogger Troy Hunt. It's a resource that allows you to assess if you've been put at risk and it's simple, free and fast.

This problem isn't going away. We have to take steps to protect our accounts ourselves. We apply road safety rules when we're out and about because we know that without them we're at risk - it's time we started thinking about Internet safety rules the same way.

Posted by Kirsty McIntosh on Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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