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Passwords, their weakest links

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By Teri Sequeira:

Although passwords are not the best locks for online accounts, they are probably the most used to gain access into email and social media accounts. Just last week, 773 million emails and 21 million passwords were hacked in what has been described as the mother of all breaches.

Passwords have been with us as far back as the genesis of computers and they are less likely to disappear from the face of earth any time soon.

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According to SplashData, an online security company that specialises in passwords, the most used password for 2017 was actually “password”. Trailing password were 123456, starwars, 12345678, Qwerty, 12345, people’s first names and dictionary words. All these are worst passwords.

Apart from password, starwars, first names and dictionary words, all the rest are actually keyboard sequences. This means one thing, people don’t bother to remember strong passwords.

What does this mean? This means that if you bothered to try, you could gain access to a lot of other people’s email and social media accounts with ‘password’. If ‘password’ fails, try ‘passw0rd’ ( just remove alphabet o and replace it with zero).

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This is not an elementary class on hacking, far from it; this is an awareness that a weak password is as good as not having a password at all.

All the passwords that made into the hall of fame for 2017 have several things in common. Number one; you do not have to be a seasoned hacker to guess and try out such easy passwords as first name or dictionary words. Number two is that they do not combine letters and numbers. Number three; they do not contain special characters like #, @ or &.

Because most people don’t bother to remember strong passwords, they use the same password for all their online and offline accounts. The problem with this is that, when your email account is hacked, your Facebook account will be hacked too.

If you cannot make an effort to remember your passwords, don’t panic, you are not the only one. Do yourself a favour by downloading password manager software that will do the remembering for you. If you have an Android phone, LastPass does a wonderful job in that regard.

Finally, you must have a way to know every time somebody tries to illegally access your account with a wrong or correct password. This is called authentication. These are services that will send you notification via an SMS on your phone or an email whenever there is a seemingly illegal access to your account. There are a lot of authentication software that you can download from the internet for free.

For those that use Gmail, there is built in authentication. If you log into your account from a new device, Gmail sends you a notification. At that point Gmail assumes that somebody may have gained access to your account.

And one more thing, as late Steve Jobs would say, once in a while, you need to change your passwords to increase your security. Passwords must play the game of chameleons; that of hide and seek. And don’t forget, your password is either as good as a steel door or no door at all.

Teri Sequeira is Managing Director of SyncIT Solutions Ltd. He can be reached on teris@SyncITAfrica.com or terisequeira@hotmail.com

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