If you are like me, you probably have about 3-4 different passwords that you use for you multiple online accounts. You use any variation of these for you your Gmail, Facebook, online baking, Twitter or news website subscriptions. Sometimes you forget which of your passwords you entered for a particular site, but if you work through your 3-4 options you can usually figure it out. And, if you are like me, you think you are quite clever with all your variations with letters and numbers. But really, how strong is your password?
After reading about research done by the Georgia Institute of Technology where they used very basic technology to try to crack people’s passwords, I realized just how weak mine were – al off them! The researchers found that they could easily crack a cluster of eight character passwords within 2 hours. When they increased the characters to twelve, they calculated that it would take 17,134 years to crack all the passwords in a cluster. That is a big difference. Let’s just say I promptly changed all may major passwords to be at least 12 characters.
Their calculations were based on the assumption that a sophisticated hacker could try 1 trillion password combinations a second. Um- wow.
So what else makes a password strong besides the number of characters? The article I read cited many different sources with advice, including Microsoft which recommended not using real words to avoid a “dictionary attack,” while Carnegie Mellon recommend using a full sentence as a password, including punctuation. A bit contradictory. Of course the strongest password would be a complete jumble of letters, numbers, and symbols, such as #%$*45&*(knfasf^^^”, however that does not seem practical to remember. And of course most sites do have limits on password length and characters that can be used.
Regardless of what you use, you should at least be thinking security when you create passwords for major online accounts. Think both in terms of number of characters and types of characters, but certainly be sure you can remember it! And if you want to check the strength of your password,try out Microsoft’s Password Checker. Mine are now rated as strong!