Don’t get hacked! Choose a good password

 

The term ‘hacking’ means gaining unauthorised access to data in a system or computer, and as the number of people owning multiple online accounts with a number of different web services increases, so too does the likelihood of one of these being hacked.

 

There are many stories these days about people’s various web accounts, including Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Dropbox and Gmail, being hacked. This can happen for a variety of reasons, as there are a number of different ways to gain unauthorised access to a web account. Some of these are:

  • Brute force attack: This method is so called because of the way in which the hack takes place. This method uses lists of common words, characters and phrases and bombards the account with them, in the hope that one of the combinations will be the correct username and password. This attack is usually carried out by another computer.
  • Back door: It has been known for programmers to add ‘back doors’ to software they write which allows them easy access to secure information. Hacking using this method is less common as only the original author would be aware of the vulnerability.
  • Phishing: This method uses deception to convince the victim that it is safe to reveal private information about themselves. This may come in the form of an email which seems to be official, maybe from your bank, requesting that you submit your online banking user name and password for a security check.
  • Whatever the method of hacking used, the fact is that by far the most common reason for an account getting hacked is that it was secured with a weak password. In 2014, these were the most common passwords used according to a study by SplashData :

  • 123456
  • password
  • 12345
  • 12345678
  • qwerty
  • 123456789
  • 1234
  • baseball
  • dragon
  • football
  •  

    What’s a ‘strong’ password?

    Above is a list of the worst possible passwords you could use, which would maximise the chance of your account being hacked. But what makes a good password? Bearing in mind the case of a Brute Force attack described above, your password should be complex enough so that a computer has trouble cracking it, not just a human. However, thinking practically, the password should be memorable, otherwise you may find yourself writing it on loose pieces of paper or emailing it to yourself, both of which are a bad idea from a security perspective.

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