What’s the deal with passwords?


19 Sep 2018

What’s the deal with passwords?

In an earlier post I talked about password hygiene, and about the challenges we have in keeping passwords secret.  I realised that I’d missed the opportunity to talk about why we need passwords – so I thought I’d cover it now.

Computers will – if set up “normally” – ask for a username and password after you switch it on.  This is a process called authentication (though more commonly we call it logging in or logging on), and in the early days (before the Internet existed) was seen as quite a good way of ensuring that the person entering the username is who they say they are.  One reason why this is important is so that there is some accountability on systems: if something bad has happened, it can often be tracked back to a specific username. The person who “owns” that username can be held accountable – and those who don’t “own” it can be discounted as the culprit.  It’s therefore quite a good protection mechanism for the other users.

Once that single computer was connected to lots of others, and particularly when connected over the Internet, some people found a challenge in trying to access those remote systems by trying to guess usernames and passwords (at a very basic level this is what hackers try to do).  Passwords which are easy to guess mean that the bad guys don’t have to work very hard to access your account.  Once they have access to your computer, they will often try to see what else they can get access to, such as your bank account, financial details, holiday plans etc.

Have a look at the image below:

image

It’s obvious that the most common passwords (and therefore the easiest to guess) haven’t changed much over the previous 5 years.  This is bad!

The bad guys use a range of software tools to try to break (or crack) passwords, and generally speaking the longer the password, the better.  But, length alone isn’t the answer.  If the password is just numbers, the bad guys “only” need to try combinations of 0 to 9 in increasing lengths i.e. 0,00,01,02,03 etc. If it’s just lower or upper case letters ie a to z or A to Z, then there are 26 variables which they need to try before moving on to a longer length.

Mixing numbers, upper and lower case letters and special characters (eg !@£$%^) gives a much longer set of variables which need to be tried, and this mix is what is called a complex password.  In all cases, the longer the combination of these the better, but the industry standard is a minimum of 8 characters long.  Personally, I prefer at least 15 characters, because the maths shows that with current computing power complex passwords of that length are very, very difficult to crack

Obviously, the longer and more complex the password, the more likely you are to forget it, which is why good password hygiene is required.  Password hygiene can be compared to personal hygiene, and more particularly your underwear.

So – keep your passwords to yourself, change them regularly, and don’t show them to anyone else!


How secure are your passwords? Test them with our password checker tool now.

———————————————————————————————

Protection Group International believes that cyber security doesn’t need to be overly complicated, incomprehensible or vastly expensive. We specialise in delivering strategic vulnerability assessment services and offer a range of senior cyber awareness education to enable you to tackle cyber threats in-house. For more information click here.

Our partner company, Protection Vessels International, is focussed on the efficient delivery of high quality, cost effective security solutions for the maritime community. We invest in our well-maintained logistic infrastructure to enhance customers’ business continuity through the protection of their assets and people. For more information click here.

 

author

By Steve Mair

Senior Cyber Security Consultant

Share this article

RISK PORTAL

Your free global geopolitical
risk dashboard

PGI’s Risk Portal tool provides daily intelligence feeds, country threat assessments and analytical insights, enabling clients to track, understand and navigate geopolitical threats.

The Risk Portal gives users up-to-date information and analysis on global affairs.

The Risk Portal allows users to visualise information in a unique and instantly understandable way. Mapping filters enable the visualisation of incidents by threat category, time period, perpetrator and target type.

Risk Portal users can upgrade their accounts to include the Report Builder and Country Profile Generator features. The Report Builder allows users to select information, data and images from the Risk Portal and create bespoke reports and emails.

Subscribers to PGI’s Bespoke services receive tailored analysis on specific sectors and geographies of interest, delivered at a frequency they determine.

Visit the Risk Portal

GDPR Services

Making ongoing compliance easier for you and your business

GDPR is now in force – make sure your business meets the necessary requirements and assurance for all your customers and employees

PGI GDPR Services

A full audit of your business to assess the level of your compliance against GDPR requirements

Become GDPR compliant with minimal work – we’ll conduct an analysis, review, report and implementation of necessary changes to your business

We’ll carry out simple assessments of security to help you understand and mitigate the potential risks to your business

Find out more on GDPR

Compliance Services

Get your business ready to face the cyber challenge

We provide a full range of accredited, certified and bespoke services that assess the resilience of your cyber security posture

PGI GDPR Services

PGI’s Qualified Security Assessors (QSA) will help you meet Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS)

Find out more on PCI DSS

Demonstrate your commitment to cyber security by achieving and maintaining accreditation for the globally-recognised information security standard

Find out more on ISO 27001

Expert assistance on the implementation and maintenance of governance requirements for personal data

Find out more on GDPR

Find out more on Compliance

Vulnerability Testing

Understand the threats of phishing and malware to avoid being targeted

Undertake our phishing capability assessment to reduce your organisation’s risk of of attack, by measuring the cyber awareness of your workforce.

Malware & Phishing Services

PGI will conduct a tailored phishing campaign, using multiple methods, to identify realism and train employees where necessary to mitigate future attacks

PGI monitor multiple metrics to identify the types of phishing, generate in-depth analysis reports and provide an informed decision to help improve your organisation’s level of security and awareness

Find out more on Vulnerability Testing

Cyber Security

Prevent attacks, respond to breaches and protect your business

Our bespoke range of cyber security services not only protect your critical assets but provide the education you need to keep your operations and data safe.

Malware & Phishing Services

implement the cost-effective cyber security measure launched by the government to prevent cyber-attacks, demonstrate commitment to your clients, and attract new business by being recognised as a secure organisation

Find out more on Cyber Essentials Accreditation

The most effective way to identify how attackers target your organisation’s weaknesses by evaluating your system and network security and reporting on any vulnerabilities that could lead to a business impact

Find out more on Penetration Testing

If your business has experienced breaches, network compromises or operational disruption, our team of cyber security specialists can deploy quickly, and efficiently begin the process of detecting and eliminating the threat

Find out more on Data Breach Response & Recovery

In the event of a computer security investigation, a vital part of the response process if making a copy of your data for safe forensic analysis. We will work with you to preserve and use this evidence to discover the extent of an intrusion

Find out more on Digital Forensics

Browse our Cyber Security services

Data Breach Response & Recovery

We prevent attacks, respond to security breaches, and protect your business

Our team of specialists can deploy quickly and efficiently to begin the process of detecting, eliminating and prevention of future threats of a breach.

Malware & Phishing Services

A vital part of the response process is making a copy of your data for safe forensic analysis. We will work with you to preserve and use this evidence to discover the extent of an intrusion

Find out more on Digital Forensics

We will identify and minimise the risks, as well as the possibility of future risks to your business

Consistent interaction with your management team and recommendations on how to approach all outcomes that need attention

Find out more on Data Breaches

Subscribe to our Cyber Bytes Newsletter

Keep yourself in the loop with PGI by signing up to our Monthly Cyber Bytes email. You will receive updates, tips and narrative around what has been happening in the world of information security.

Get in touch today

For more information on how we can help you or your business, please contact us via:

Related News

International Womens Day - Pioneering Women in Tec...

08 Mar 2017

Pioneering Women in Technology – Katherine JohnsonThe Oscar season has been and gone. The...

Read news article

Law Firms and why they need cyber security

07 Sep 2018

Why Law Firms need Cyber Security. Suffering a data breach can be devastating! From the experts at P...

Read news article

Content from the expert - GDPR and Cyber Governanc...

12 Jul 2017

Will there be a knock on effect regarding the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) after the UK...

Read news article
Back to the News Hub

+44 (0)207 887 2699
©2017 PGI - Protection Group International Ltd. All rights reserved.
PGI - Protection Group International Ltd is registered in England & Wales, reg. no. 07967865
Address: Unit 13/14, Swallow Court, Sampford Peverell, Tiverton, England, EX16 7EJ