In the role of a PCS NOC Engineer, we deal with clients and their equipment daily. While helping to keep their businesses running smoothly, we periodically encounter security issues that our clients are not aware of and in many cases, inadvertently cause. One of the most common, most exploitable, and most preventable is the weak password. Weak passwords are a common cause of costly data breaches, which can wreak havoc in many ways, from stolen money to sensitive (sometimes embarrassing) personal information being sold to the highest bidder or released on the internet. In today’s world, a four-character password, even if there are numbers and symbols in it, can be cracked in minutes (if not seconds) and is simply not acceptable.
So, what is acceptable?
Any password is crackable if there is enough time and resources devoted to it. Using simple and insecure passwords enable cyber criminals to crack them quickly and gain access to accounts or email before a breach is discovered and remediation can begin. Choosing long, complex passwords can stop a hacker from gaining access or make it so difficult that by the time they do crack the password, the breach has been discovered and the password has already been changed. The following are a couple of examples of secure, complex passwords: Wt4e-79P-B13^qS and 0n3H@Rd2CraCP@s5woRd. Examples of simple and insecure passwords are "spot" and "Smith1943" or anything someone who knows you could easily guess.
How do I remember a complex password?
While it is true that a password you can't remember is no good to you, there are ways to keep up with impossible to remember combinations. One way is to use a password manager. A password manager stores all your complex and unique passwords and allows you to access them by using one master password. Here is PCMag’s list of the top ten password managers of 2018 to help you find one that works for you: https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp
Another trick is to use a phrase and incorporate shortcut codes or acronyms. For example, "2BorNot2B_ThatIsThe?" or "John3:16=4G". Writing them down and keeping them beside your computer may foil a cybercriminal, but the more hands-on thief will have access to them if they decide to target your home or office. The best way to keep your passwords secure is to keep them in your mind, but the password manager may be the second-best way because it is easier to remember one complex password than many. And finally, don't share your passwords with anyone, for any reason.
As a business owner, we know that your IT is probably the last thing you want to be worrying about on a daily basis - and, if you’re not an IT professional, you probably have a lot of uncertainty about what your business needs from IT. At PCS, IT consulting is one of the most important steps of our process - what goals do you have for your network? What changes would you like to see in how your business uses technology? Not sure what to even ask? PCS offers free IT consultations - visit this page to schedule a meeting.