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Passwords and Underwear: An Analogy Worth Mentioning

When Thycotic, a security software company, compared passwords to underwear, it certainly got a chuckle or two. But they share three characteristics that are worth more than a mention:

  1. Change them regularly.
  2. Don’t leave them on your desk.
  3. Never lend them.

Without getting into TMI, changing every password every day is a lot more involved than changing your underwear, and it’s really impractical. But you can help make your data more secure by changing passwords monthly or quarterly – or any time you see something that looks funny, odd or out of place.

We’ve seen numbers indicating that 75% of all Internet users employ the same password for all the sites they visit. I would strengthen it by using upper and lower case letters, numerals and special characters. I feel my information is safe because it could take years for a hacker to figure it out.

However, hackers have various tools to crack passwords, and they’ll get one eventually. The longer and more complex your password is, the longer it will take. And, hackers make a business decision in how far to go. If they can get a whole bunch of easily decoded passwords quickly, that’s where they’ll concentrate their efforts. So, if you want to keep your password simple, change it more often. But, do change it regularly.

Don’t leave them out on your desk. I can’t tell you how many times I visit clients and see passwords taped to monitors or walls for the whole world to see. In busy offices, where people walk in and out all day, it would be very easy for a practiced password thief to see a password or two and remember them. If you recoiled with horror at the thought of someone seeing your underwear on your desk, how do you feel about someone getting into your personal or corporate bank or credit-card information?

Never lend your passwords to anyone. Yes, the thought of someone using your password should be just as disgusting as someone wearing… Well, you get the idea.

You can further protect your password by being very careful about which websites you provide information. Remember that 75% figure? If a hacker uses a website for a bogus offer – such as something for free – to get you to sign on with a password, he’ll make the assumption that you lack good judgment or common sense. He’ll also assume you use the same password for dozens of other places, including those where he can either take money from you or find information to sell to others.

If you use cloud-based services, such as Microsoft Office 365, the provider will monitor patterns and notice something out of the ordinary. You, too, should be on the lookout for out-of-the-ordinary things, such as emails with attachments or links from people who normally don’t send you those things or emails with odd subject lines.

If you have any questions about password security, contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email. In the meantime, treat your password like your underwear.