July 30, 2022

By Burton Kelso
The Technology Expert

Your passwords allow you access to your online accounts and they exist to keep the bad guys out of your private information stored in your email, social media, and financial accounts.

Weak and stolen passwords are how criminals get your data which is why you need to make sure they are uncrackable. If you want to keep your Internet accounts safe from data breaches, take some time to learn how to create secure passwords to keep safe from all of the bad guys on the web.

How does my password get hacked? There are several ways criminals can get access to your passwords:

• They purchase them off the dark web. One of the easiest is to purchase them off the dark web. There’s a huge market for the sale and purchase of passwords and other login credentials. Usually, when there’s a data breach, your information is dumped on the dark web. If you haven’t changed passwords for your accounts for a while, there’s a good chance your current one is out there floating around or in the hands of criminals.

• They try to break in your devices and accounts. When criminals try to break into your accounts, it’s known as a brute force attack. They usually create programs or bots that attempt to use every variation of known passwords to your online accounts. The most successful bute force attacks are against accounts with a small number of characters. The longer the password, the more secure the account.

• Dictionary attacks. Yes, those terms and words you use from your dictionary can be used against you. How? Sometimes people will go to the dictionary to pick words that are in order. For example, you may think the word gathergaudygage makes for a strong password, but they don’t. Criminals know this and will use that against you. Now you can use a dictionary to pick different words to form a password or passphrase, you will stay safe.

• Phishing Attacks. Phishing comes in all forms and is the most common way crooks will get your password. Phishing attacks can come in the form of Email, Voice, and text . Most of these attacks are socially engineered as the hackers will create a fake emergency where you have to give out your credentials to solve the problem.

• Large Company Data Breaches. If I told you TransUnion’s South Africa office become a victim of a $15 million ransomware attack by using the word password as one of their passwords. I know that’s hard to believe, but too often we see too many people and businesses who still use “password” for their computers, online accounts, and servers. Also, many companies are breached and hacked by employees who click on links they shouldn’t. You would think more people would stop this practice to protect the valuable data they control. That’s why it’s up to all of us to make sure we are using strong passwords and change our passwords on a regular basis to protect our stuff.

How Can I Keep My Passwords safe From Hackers? Passwords are a pain in the butt, but you need to use strong ones to keep your accounts safe. Check out the following steps to up your password game:

• Use different passwords for all of your online accounts: Criminals count on you to use the same passwords for all of your online accounts which is why it’s important to use different passwords for all your accounts. When crooks find your passwords, they immediately attempt to log into all of your online accounts to see what information or money they can steal. If all of your passwords are the same, they have access to everything you save online.

• Change your passwords on a regular basis. You never know when the next data breach is going to occur and you don’t know if it will involve your passwords. Large companies will usually report if they have been breached. However, the smaller companies you have shared information with aren’t always forthcoming. If you get into the habit of changing passwords on a regular basis. Whatever passwords of yours that may have been leaked on the dark web, won’t affect you.

• Use a password manager. One of the best ways to keep different passwords is to use a password manager which will allow you to keep track of those passwords. One of the easiest password managers to use is the one in your favorite browsers such as Safari, Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Brave. You can also use LastPass or 1Password to store your passwords. Bous. Password managers will alert you when your passwords appear on the dark web.

• Stop using passwords and start using passphrases. A passphrase is a string of unrelated words used as password authentication that is longer than your standard password, easy for you to remember, and difficult for criminals to crack. Examples of passphrases include “DiscordTree2156” or “BlinkRabbit8936” When most people create passwords, they use things near and dear to them, which can be figured out by criminals if they peek at your social media accounts. Think dog’s name, firstborn, etc etc.

• Use multi-factor authentication. As the 2nd line of defense to keep your passwords and accounts safe, use multi-factor authentication on all of your online accounts. Whenever you log into your accounts from a new or online location, you can set up your accounts to email you or send a text message to you which you can then use to verify that you are the one signing into your account. If a bad guy gets your password and tries to log in, the 2-factor authentication will keep them out.

When you’re done following all of these tips, make sure you share them with your family and friends so they can protect themselves too. Breaches will continue to happen. When you take the time to share educational information with friends and family, you will be helping people to protect themselves. I hope you can use these tips to prevent your passwords from being stolen by hackers. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!

Want to ask me a tech question? Send it to burton@callintegralnow.com. If you prefer to connect with me on social media, you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter and watch great tech tip videos on my YouTube channel. I love technology. I’ve read all of the manuals and I want to make technology fun and easy to use for everyone! If you need on-site or remote tech support for your Windows\Macintosh, computers, laptops, Android/Apple smartphone, tablets, printers, routers, smart home devices, and anything that connects to the Internet, please feel free to contact my team at Integral. My team of friendly tech experts are always standing by to answer your questions and help make your technology useful and fun. Reach out to us at www.callintegralnow.com or phone at 888.256.0829.