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Passwords: how hard are yours to guess?

It can be frustrating to continually set up strong passwords - at least 8 characters, made up of letters, numbers and special characters – creating and remembering them can be hard work.

However, given that the password ‘123456’ has been found 23 million times in global breaches, these strict requirements are in our best interests. Here, we look at some of the common mistakes that play into the hands of hackers and how to make sure your passwords are as secure as they can be.

Avoid predictability

Predictability is a password cracker’s best friend, so avoid using birthdays, family names, pets, interests, locations, sports teams or anything else someone could easily discover.

Combine techniques

Unfortunately, simply substituting special characters into words, such as Samuel becoming S4mu3L, can be easily deciphered by hackers. However, used in conjunction with longer passwords, such as three random words or a memorable phrase can create an effective password.

Reset, but don’t re-use

Change your passwords regularly – at least once a year – and close down any accounts or services you don’t use. Try to use a significantly different password - many of us have a favourite password we fall back on, but if one account is breached, other accounts using the same or similar accounts are immediately at risk too.

Beware of banking on your browser

Be wary of using the password manager built into web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Safari as security experts have shown these can be easily exposed. In contrast, a dedicated password manger app protects against this with high-level encryption.

Don’t be caught off-guard offline

Be vigilant and seek verification when someone calls and claims to be from your network provider or other organisation – known as social engineering, this type of cybercrime can use artificial intelligence and voice technology to trick you into transferring funds or handing over login details.

Lock down your location data

Be aware that apps with permission to access your location could leak more information than you realise, such as your home or work address. And if your photos are geotagged by default, then uploaded to social media, this information could be available to prying eyes.

Search Yourself

You may be surprised at what public information is available about you when searching your own name across Google, Bing, and social media platforms. Running a cyber security audit gives you the opportunity to take steps to block access or remove the data from the original source.

By following these simple yet important steps you may lower your chances of hackers accessing your personal and sensitive information.