What is password hygiene and why is it important?

02 May 2019

What is password hygiene and why is it important?

Did you know that more than 3.6 million people in the UK use ‘password’ as their password? Even worse, 23.2 million people globally use ‘123456’. These statistics come from the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) recent report that highlights some of the alarming password practices of millions of people.

Despite attempts at educating the wider population around the use of weak passwords, these sorts of statistics still show up each year. Passwords are often the one barrier between a hacker and your private information, so that’s why good password hygiene is so important.

Read more: Are you ready to be hacked?

4 password hygiene tips you can’t ignore

Create strong passwords

Whilst we have been told for years that we need strong passwords made of letters, numbers and symbols with a minimum of 8 characters, the truth is possibly less complicated than that. At a minimum, you’ll need a 14-character password and the NCSC recommends using three random words strung together. Length is the primary factor when creating a strong password; the longer it is, the more guesses will be needed by hackers to get it right.

Take a look at our Password Checker Tool to test the strength of your password.

Use a different password for every account or online profile

Even if you have a strong password that might take a hacker 10,000 years to guess, you shouldn’t be using it for every account you have; should one of the platforms you’re using get compromised, that password could be published online for the world to see. Even the least sophisticated hackers can then attempt using that password and username combination on the most popular websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, leaving you open to fraud, identity theft, and personal reputation damage.

Use two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a second layer of security. When you input the correct username and password, you will need a second code that may come from either an email, text message or hardware token – this ensures the correct person is the one logging in. There are plenty of 2FA solutions available—from RSA tokens to mobile apps—but it depends on your or your organisation’s needs.

Use a password manager

If we’re expected to have different complicated passwords for each account and online profile, how can we really remember each one? You can’t (well, most of us can’t). Your two better options are to write down your passwords in a hard copy format or use a password manager. Both have their pros and cons, but obviously a password manager is particularly susceptible to compromise. So, what should you do? The answer will depend on your needs, but if you do choose a password manager, make sure it’s the right one (at the very least, make sure it encrypts your passwords using strong cryptographic methodologies in a trusted way and, if you’re not sure, find a well-known and respected brand) and keep your computer and apps up-to-date.

Mitigate the risk

These four actions can easily be implemented in both your personal and professional life, but in the workplace make sure you discuss password security and hygiene with your IT and/or security team first. At the end of the day, there is always a risk of your information being compromised, but by following these tips you’ll be mitigating that risk quite significantly.

PS. This is a very short and sweet article, but if you’re after something a bit more in-depth, we can recommend this article from The Register.

We can help with your cyber security

If you’ve read this article and think you might need some help implementing good password hygiene in your organisation, PGI are experts in information security, as well as the proactive and reactive aspects of cyber security. Contact us today to start the process of becoming cyber secure:  clientservices@pgitl.com or +44 (0)207 887 2699.

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