It’s such a simple thing. Why don’t more people do it?

Using strong passwords and managing them carefully are two of the most important things you — and the people who work with you — can do to protect the company you’ve worked so hard to make successful. It helps prevent your private business and customer records from being stolen by hackers. It also keeps cyber crooks from bringing down your operation. Weak passwords are an invitation for criminals to come right in and do whatever they want to your online operation.

Sure, it can be difficult to create and recall strong passwords, but that’s not an excuse to avoid using them.

Share this checklist with the people on your team. It includes information on how to develop strong passwords that are memorable along with tips on how to handle them so they aren’t compromised. It will help you rest better at night knowing you’re taking steps to protect your operation against hackers.

1. Understand what a strong password is.

Let’s start by explaining the characteristics of a strong password.

  • It should be at least 11 characters long.
  • It must contain at least three different types of characters including uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols and numbers.
  • The character types should be distributed throughout the password.
  • The characters within a password should be randomized and not include recognizable patterns, such as keyboard sequences (for example, qwerty).
  • Don’t include real words within the password (for example, 134Dog791!)

Consider using a secure password generator tool. It’s a good way to create passwords that are difficult for cyber thieves to crack. Make sure it’s one developed by and distributed through a reputable company. Don’t fall into the trap of using just any generator tool you find online. It could be a ploy by cyber crooks to supply you with passwords through the tool they can use to hack you.

2. Leverage personal dates to make passwords memorable.

Do you find it difficult to remember complex passwords? It’s a common problem.

Using personal dates is one way to create strong passwords that are easy for you to remember and hard for hackers to crack. One date you should never use for this purpose is your birthday. Your wedding anniversary is another to avoid. These two dates are too easy for people to find online. Instead, use important dates that are meaningful to you, but that no one else could figure out. Some examples are the date you got your first car or that you adopted your pet. Once you select a date, add in some letters and other special characters to transform it into a smart password.

3. Use a private coding system to create passwords.

Another way to develop secure passwords is to develop your own code. Pretend you’re a kid and create a secret coding system by replacing letters with other letters, numbers or characters. For example, start with a term, title or something else you’ll remember like “Jack and Jill”. Then use a code system you develop yourself and that only you know, such as:

Replace the… With a…
J k
a 1
c ?
k L
n @
d E
i J
l 7

Based on this code, Jack and Jill would become the safe password k1?L1@EkJ77.

While this password isn’t easy to remember, you can always refer to your private coding system to recall it. You can keep your code accessible no matter where you are because it’s meaningless unless someone knows the original term, title or statement that went into creating the coded password, in this case “Jack and Jill”. Since it’s almost impossible for hackers to know both elements, it’s a proven safe way to create complex passwords.

4. Only document partial passwords or clues.

If you find it difficult to remember your passwords or the inspiration for them, only document part of a password or a clue to help you remember it. For example, if your password is “2BeOrNot2BeThatIsThe?” then only document the “ThatIsThe” part of it. It will help you remember the password, but it will be useless to cyber thieves. If you used “Miami Dolphins” as the basis for your coded password, you could document “Florida football” as your memory hint. It’s a broad enough clue that few could ever figure out.

5. Use unique passwords for each account, software and system.

Think about how much damage hackers can do if they figure out the login information for one of your business assets and you use the same credentials across many or all of them. It’s bad enough for one account, software package or system to get hacked. Having multiple ones broken into could be enough to bring down your business.

6. Never reuse passwords.

Reusing passwords only makes it easier for cyber criminals to hack your systems if they find a record of your old passwords. Never recycle, even if the passwords go back years.

7. Use a password management system.

Instead of leveraging techniques to remember a lot of unique and complex passwords, why not use an automated password manager? These systems allow you to create and access passwords for each of your accounts. The only password you will have to remember is the one for your password manager account. Make sure you use a password manager from a reputable source. Cyber thieves promote fake ones in order to hack businesses that don’t do their due diligence.

8. Require two factor authentication.

Always practice two factor authentication. It makes your smart passwords stronger by providing an added layer of security to your accounts.

When you use two factor authentication, after you input your login credentials, you will be required to complete the login process through another device, usually a smartphone. Once you input your username and password, and they check out, you will receive a text message, email or a prompt through verification software that you must respond to or act on. Once you do, the login process will be completed.

Two factor authentication makes it almost impossible for cyber crooks to crack your systems. They would need to know your login credentials and have stolen the device used for the authentication process, along with the information to log into that device. This makes it way too complicated for them to hack you, and they’ll likely move on to easier targets.

Do you have questions about securing your business against cyber thieves? Contact one of the helpful experts at GeeksHD to get the help you need.