Passwords – The Weakest Link

Even in the early days of the internet security was a concern. I can remember my father coming home from his university with a floppy disk that, unbeknownst to him, contained a virus that had spread through the university mainframe, and that was when the “world wide web” was still restricted a hobbyists, educational institutes and the military.

Needless to say things got more and more complicated from then on. Virus scares were commonplace, opening the wrong e-mail could result in irreversibly lost data or worse. Every floppy disk needed to be scanned manually for viruses and random popups threatened to take over your computer. In more recent times internet security has become both much simpler, but with much higher stakes.

The good news is that common-sense security software like anti-viruses and firewalls are commonplace, usually even enabled by default on new computers. Web browsers are much more intelligent about warning users of possible threats, and improved networking hardware (both in homes and at the telcoms like Shaw) have made the simpler exploits of yesteryear much harder. These improvements, along with some common-sense browsing practices make the threat of viruses and traditional computer “hacks” vastly less concerning for the average user.

The bad news is that users are putting increasingly personal and sensitive data online. Our Facebook accounts are full of private photos, Amazon stores a full catalogue of our credit cards and addresses, our credit scores are available online with little more than our social security number and our online social accounts have never before seen so much scrutiny from potential employers making them a tempting target for libel.

Internet security is no longer primarily about protecting your computer. An individual computer isn’t an especially valuable target for hackers, but your Amazon’s account is an incredibly valuable score for enterprising “black-hat” hackers. There’s nothing you can do to improve Amazon or Facebook’s security of course, but your access to those accounts – most significantly your passwords – are now the weakest link in this chain.

Unfortunately most users still use incredibly weak passwords, often less than 8 lowercase characters and no numbers. Even an 8-character non-dictionary password like “qweasdzx” can be cracked in as little as 52 seconds by a normal computer. By comparison, a longer, 10-character password with upper- and lower-case characters and numbers, such as “qw3asDzx79” would take upwards of 6 years to crack. Remember, length is far more important than anything else – even a simple password “wheredidthepartygo” (233 million years to crack) is vastly more secure than the complex, but short “h@T3r” (0.67 seconds to crack).

Try out to see how secure your passwords are!

But who wants to remember long passwords like those, especially when you should have a different password for every web account you use? That’s where LastPass comes in. LastPass is a browser add-on that manages your passwords for you so you don’t have to. Simply create a LastPass account with one very strong password and let LastPass generate complex, nigh-uncrackable passwords for your other web accounts. Anytime you visit Facebook or Amazon, LastPass will autofill the password field so you never need to remember more than one password.

LastPass is entirely free (although enhanced features are available for $12/year) and works with all popular browsers – Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and more and is backed by some of the best encryption security available today. So let LastPass handle the security of your web accounts and never forget another password again!

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One Response to Passwords – The Weakest Link

  1. Just wanted to throw my hat in the ring of a new contender, 100% free, multi-platform, browser-extension and app enabled, engineered open source, and developed by a security professional over the past few years. It’s called BitWarden and I’ve been using it for the past few weeks with great success check it out and let me know what you think 🙂 Cheers

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