Globally, over 80% of confirmed breaches are related to stolen, weak, or reused passwords. Indeed, the importance of strong password practice cannot be undermined as we celebrate International Fraud Awareness Week especially because we live in a digital era where for every traditional method of doing things, there is a faster and more effective method of doing this digitally. For instance, you can now store your physical photo albums on the cloud; instead of sending letters, you can send an email; bank transfers, card payments, and other fast-growing payment technologies are rapidly replacing the physical exchange of cash.
The speed and ease of doing all of this digitally also comes with the responsibility of ensuring your banking details, funds, and other personal information are kept secure. Passwords are necessary to protect your information and funds stored digitally, just as a beautiful big house needs a gate to prevent unauthorized entry. As you may be aware, a gate is only useful with a good lock and proper storage of keys. Similarly, having a password is insufficient to keep bad actors out. So, how can you make your passwords strong and useful enough?
What is a Password?
A password is a set of secret characters (texts, numbers, and special characters) for verifying access to and securing a digital system. In this case, a digital system can be your email, bank account, merchant dashboard, or cloud storage.
Best Password Practices
Passwords are the key to everything we do on the internet, and the importance of having a good password can not be overemphasized. Setting a hard-to-guess password might seem challenging, but doing so can keep bad actors from having unauthorized access to your money or using your personal information to commit fraud.
To make your digital life more secure by having good and strong passwords, here are the top five password practices you need to know and use in your daily interactions with online systems:
- Set Complex Passwords: Complex passwords refer to passwords that mix numbers, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and special characters (i.e., @,<,),#). These passwords are harder to guess than simple passwords. For instance, “Bre@d&tOa$t” is harder to guess than “breadandtoast.” Let’s paint a clearer picture. Why do you think it’s usually hard to replicate or figure out granny’s special recipe? Simply because there are so many ingredients and steps involved. So, think of your passwords as a digital recipe; make it unique and harder to figure out.
- The Longer The Safer: Research by Hive Systems shows that longer passwords are significantly harder to crack and compromise than shorter ones. A lengthier password is harder to guess and compromise, even with the most advanced methods or tools that bad actors might try to explore. So, how long should your password be? As a rule of thumb, once your password is a dozen letters long, you are great because passwords over 12 characters are more secure than ones with fewer characters.
- Never Use Personal Information As Passwords: Do not use information like your birthday, phone number, or full name as your password. This is quite straightforward. In this age of technology, when your personal information is sometimes easily accessible online via different sources, including your social media profiles, steering clear of your personal details when creating passwords is a smart move.
- Do Not Repeat Passwords: Can you still remember that beautiful big house we mentioned earlier? Now, imagine that big beautiful house, its gate, the cars inside the house, the house doors, kitchen cabinets, and wardrobes in the rooms all have and use the same key. Dangerous? Yes. This is similar to using one password for all your accounts. A breach in one implies an automatic breach across all your accounts. This might be a far reach, but using different passwords for different accounts gives you a second level of security.
- Never Share Your Password: Still in the beautiful big house, the same way you would never give your keys to a stranger, guard your password with the same importance. This is because sharing your passwords, even with friends and relatives, sometimes leads to unintended and avoidable security breaches. Anyone asking for your password online is most likely trying to defraud you; watch out!
Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Aware.
Happy International Fraud Awareness Week!
Written by Temitope Bamidele with contribution from the Fraud Team at Flutterwave.