Avoid A PR Nightmare By Creating Better Passwords

Posted on August 29, 2012


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There have been several high profile cases of midsized businesses having their employee’s passwords hacked and their emails published, or rude and embarrassing items posted via their social networks. There are several way it can happen, like clicking on a malware link, but all too often the fault lies at the user’s doorstep.

Several studies of passwords show that the majority of users have simple keyboard combinations like 12345 or qwerty, a first name, swear words, or use the word “password”. Do you think that hackers know this? Yup! You can see 20 of the most common passwords.

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An Easy Password Can Cost You A Lot

It is difficult to remember long or complex passwords, but not making a strong password can have devastating and very public results. False information released through an executive’s social networking site can lower the stock price or ignite consumer unease. Personal or embarrassing emails or texts released to the media can ruin careers. The damage can be done easily and quickly. With the resulting cost going to the company and its stakeholders.

Corporate Communications needs to include information on creating strong passwords in the company’s guidelines for social media, and create employee awareness by sending it out several ties a year via the company’s internal communications channels.
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While your IT department is right about “vj38*9ldspAn#27” being a very strong password, the reality is no one will remember it or use it – except for your IT consultant.

4 Don’ts For A Secure Password

Tuan C. Nguyen noted in a blog post:

  • Avoid using parts of your name or email address since criminals can easily figure this out
  • Don’t include personal information like your birth date, names of family members or street addresses.
  • Consecutive numbers are a bad idea. You can basically nix “123456″ or any other pervasively common combinations.
  • Steer clear of familiar sequences, phrases and slang terms.

A Quick And Dirty Easy (Easier) To Remember Password

The longer and more random your password the better. So, please use this formula at your own risk. I have found it helpful when working with clients I know won’t stick with, or even use, complex passwords.

A) Think of a 3 or 4 letter word. (You can go longer if you want.) Example Beat.

B) Think of a number or spacial character (!@#$%&*). Example 8.

C) Think of a different 3 or 4 letter word than you did in step A. Example Urn.

D) Do the same thing as step B, but if you picked a special character, this time pick a number, and vice versa. Example @.

By putting those together we have Beat + 8 + Urn + @ = “Beat8Urn@” as a password.

Check Your Password Strength

How good is your password? Well the good people over Password Meter said mine was pretty good:

Strong Passwords

Bonus Points

You should reorder them in a way that is easiest for you to remember. Also, if you are up for it, you should add a step E by adding one more word, number or spacial character to your password string.

Keeping Your Passwords Organized

A handy tool for managing your passwords is to have a Password Manager. A free software I like is KeePass.

KeePass describes themselves as a free open source password manager, which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file. So you only have to remember one single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

About Steve Farnsworth @Steveology

Social media, communications, and content marketing for technology companies. Strategy and implementation that generate leads, builds customer loyalty and word-of-mouth buzz. Contact 650-331-0594 to increase your market position and sales.

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