Improving Your Passwords Strength

A password is the first line of defence in protecting not only your own personal data, but also confidential company data. There are penalties for data breaches in Australia covered under the Australia Privacy Act of 1988, the Privacy Regulation 2013, and the latest addition for security breach reporting Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act 2017. It is imperative to have a stringent password policy that protects against data breaches for both your company data and personal data.

Passwords vs. Passphrases

One of the most effective ways to keep your data safe is to use multi-factor authentication as an additional layer of security. However when multi-factor authentication isn’t available, passphrases should be used rather than complicated passwords that can’t be remembered. For example a password such as r0nZUwykYfvAjUmfip0myNB@D@SA would never be remembered but a passphrase like EyewatchAFL057! can easily be committed to memory.

The longer and more complex the password, the longer it takes to crack. As an example, a simple 7 character password consisting of all lowercase letters takes only 0.29 milliseconds to crack, but it would take nearly 200 years to crack a 12-character password of mixed lower case letters. The example supplied above will take 4,476,650,254,127 years to hack.

Some key aspects of creating strong Passphrases include:

  • Aim for at least 4 words or a minimum of 14 characters.
  • Use a combination of upper and lower case, numbers and a special characters.
  • Create unpredictable passphrases e.g. ‘Banana house 2 green sheep!’
  • Create a unique passphrase for each valuable account

Passwords weaken as technology evolves and hackers become more proficient. In just a few years, passwords that may be considered strong by today’s standards could become much easier to crack. You may have had a strong 7-character password a decade ago that would have taken several years to crack back then, but now takes a few hours or days to crack. Because of this it’s important to use the best technology available, such as multi-factor authenticator, to keep your data secure.

Your password security isn’t only dependent on the strength of your password. Remember to never share your account details or password with anyone, this includes accounts supplied by customers for accessing their site. You are responsible for what happens under the account and there are substantial penalties for data breaches.

It important to never use well known passwords that are available on the Internet for example P@ssw0rd1 and to change passwords on a regular basis, (this is automatically enforced by Microsoft Group Policy).

Always consider security when setting and using passwords. Remember, security is only as good as the weakest password.

For more information on how to create and use passphrases to improve security, take a look at the Australian Cyber Security Centres publication. 

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