Protect yourself online.
Hackers may try to gain unauthorised access to your data and one way they can do this is by accessing your accounts using your password.
There are many different types of hacker. Some may be criminals. Others may be adversaries who are targeting you directly because of your work.
Hackers use computer programs to crack passwords. These programs are able to guess an extremely high number of password combinations. This is why you should always create strong passwords. A strong password is a long password made up of more than six words and which should, ideally, also contain numbers and symbols. The longer your password, the harder it will be for a computer program to guess it.
Best practice: passwords
- Check if any of your accounts have been compromised by using haveibeenpwned.com. This site will check to see if your email and/or your password have been part of a data breach. If an account has been compromised you should change its password straight away. Register with haveibeenpwned.com to be notified of a breach in the future.
- Online services register and store data on you. When the security of these sites is breached, your data is put at risk. Companies such as Linkedin and Dropbox have been hacked and their data – including email addresses and passwords of their users – was stolen. This is one reason why you should not re-use passwords. If one account is breached, hackers may try to use that password to gain access to your other accounts.
- Do not include personal details in your passwords and avoid using well-known phrases from literature or songs. These are easy for you to remember but they are also easy for hackers to crack.
- Create long passwords, known as passphrases. See our guide below.
- Your browser sometimes gives you the option to save your password on the browser. This makes it easy for you to log into your accounts but also means that it is easy for others to gain access to your accounts if they have access to your computer.
Creating a strong password
You should always set aside some time to create a strong and long password.
There are several ways to do this, including the methods listed below. There is no ‘official’ or fool-proof method so you should choose the way that best suits you.
Here are some methods for creating your long and more secure passwords:
- The Dice Method – This method can create incredibly hard-to-hack passwords. It consists of rolling four dice and using the numbers generated to select a word from a list. The more words you select the stronger your password will be. The Electronic Frontier Foundation gives clear instructions on how to use this method.
- The Person, Action, Object Method – Use this method to create memorable passphrases. To summarise Lifehacker’s explanation of it: Think of a person, an action and a place, and maybe a few other things: Beyonce, driving, Mount Rushmore, Jello mold. These are then combined into a sentence to be used as a passphrase: “Beyonce driving a Jello mold at Mount Rushmore.”
You may want to consider using a password manager. A password manager is a tool that generates and stores strong passwords for your accounts. You will not have to remember these passwords, as your password manager will automatically fill in your password when you want to log into your account. You will have to create a long and strong password to access your password manager. You will have to remember this password as you will not be able to access your password manager account without it and you will lose access to your accounts.
Here is a selection of commonly-used password managers. Please research your own password manager before buying to make sure that it suits you and your needs.