The passwords you use online are intended to protect your personal data, so it’s important to choose ones that are difficult for other people to guess. However, they also need to be easy for you to remember, preferably without having to write them down. 

identity theft

Most cybercriminals will try to hack into your social networking or email accounts and most want the financial gain that hacking bank accounts can bring. If a hacker gains access to your email account, they could use the 'forgot your password' link on other websites you use such as online shopping or banking sites. If a hacker gains access to your social media accounts, they could send fraudulent messages to your friends asking for money. To stay protected, it is important to have a strong password to keep cybercriminals at bay. 

How do cybercriminals gain access to your accounts?

One method that hackers use to access your accounts is to try and guess your password based off personal information gained from your security questions. Another way a hacker can attempt to gain access to your account is through a password cracker which uses multiple combinations of characters to repeatedly guess a password until it gains access to the account. The longer and more complex a password is, the harder it will be to crack the password. 

Follow these pointers to avoid being a victim of password hacking attacks: 

  • Don’t use anything that’s easy for someone else to find out. For instance, you shouldn’t use any part of your name, address or birth date or those of close family members, or your pet’s name.
  • Don’t use common words. One of the most common passwords is the word ‘password’ and it’s one that any criminal will try first. Criminals will use dictionary-based systems to crack solitary words. 
  • Try thinking of a short sentence or phrase and use the first letter of each word. You could use a line of, say, a poem or song – for example, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ becomes ‘iwlaac’. You could write down ‘daffodils’ as a reminder for this. Similarly, a short phrase could be ‘My teacher’s name was Miss Clarke’. The password would be ‘mtnwmc’ and ‘teacher’ could be your reminder.
  • Many websites require you to use capital letters and numbers in your password as these make them more secure. A good way to incorporate numbers is to substitute numbers for letters that look similar – for instance:
  • ’1′ for ‘i’
  • ’0′ (zero) for ‘o’
  • ’5′ for ‘s’
  • ’3′ for ‘e’.
  • It also helps to use characters such as ‘&’ or ‘+’.
  • Do use a password that is at least 8 characters long, the more characters there are in a password the more difficult it will be to guess. 
  • Don't use the same password across all your social media and email accounts. 
  • Change your passwords regularly. 
  • Don't click on 'yes' when prompted by browsers to save your password. Instead, rely on a strong password committed to memory or stored in a dependable password management program. Norton Security stores your passwords securely and fills them in online in encrypted form.

This may seem like a long, complicated process to go through just to log into a website. However, it is not as complicated as a cybercriminal gaining access to all your saved passwords and stealing your identity. Just remember, that a bit of effort to secure your password will protect you from extremely compromising situations in the long run.

This guide was last updated on 03/12/2018