Getting Serious About Security: Passwords

Jun 27, 2018

I studied network security in college. My early 20s were filled with tech-related acronyms and rooms full of computer fans. Day in and day out, my teachers, some of them former government technology professionals, preached security. We discussed firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems, certifications…we never stopped learning about advanced security systems used all over the world to protect information. Now that I’ve been out in the real world for a while, I realize that they didn’t talk enough about one additional security component: People. People are the weakest point of any network infrastructure. So, I’m here to toughen you up over the next few weeks and make sure you use common sense and good judgment to keep your data safe!

Data breaches occur every day. Here’s proof. We can’t stop it. Information goldmines, like hospitals, banks, and schools, are always targets for cybercriminals. Yet, each of us can do a little more to make sure we’re not the reason for a network breach. Most websites have minimum password requirements, including capital letters and symbols, but even if they don’t, use them! Add an extra symbol at the end of your password. Spell a word incorrectly. Add a capital letter or an underscore in the middle of a word. Anything is better than a plain English password.

Keep it personal. Never share your password. Occasionally, a friend or family member will email me a password when I’m trying to fix something for them. I cringe (and give them a lecture) every time. What good is a password, no matter how complex, if you share it? If a technician needs your password, type it in. Don’t say or write it down. You can’t be too careful.

Don’t reuse passwords. Even tech guys are human. Those advanced networking college classes that required hours upon hours of screen time every week? I used the same plain English password for everything. Every login, every website. Of course, this eventually caught up with me when my email account was hacked. I had to reset my password on every single login—embarrassing!

Don’t be the CEO using “Password123” or the doctor using “hospital999.” One weak password can undo the millions of dollars invested in a secure network. Use different complex passwords on every account login. Check out a password management tool like LastPass. It’s free and allows you to use various passwords without having to remember each one!

You might not be able to individually stop a cybercriminal, but you can rest easy knowing that you didn’t let them in!