Ever receive a flurry of messages from friends informing you that your company's Twitter account has become a living, breathing advertisement for the weight-loss properties of goji berries? And here you thought hackers were only interested in financial information.
Ah, if only — in 2011, 90% of companies reported that their organization's computers had been hacked in the past year. All businesses are at risk, and being casual about password security can have major consequences — especially if you store passwords someplace thieves can easily access, like a cloud file, or use the same one for every account. Don't count on luck to land you in that 10% of businesses who didn't come under hacker attack — use a password management system like Meldium to easily manage all of your company's passwords, for over 1600 apps from Amazon to Evernote. And while you're at it, start beefing up your password security with the tips below.
Pick a Better Password than "123456"
It may seem crazy, but "123456" was the most common password in America in 2013. Simple passwords are basically welcome mats for data thieves, because the most common hacking techniques hinge on cracking passwords. Hackers use data collections called password dictionaries for "dictionary attacks." If your password is in that dictionary when you come under attack, you're out of luck.
So how do you create a really strong password? One method involves thinking up a password that is so complex (and goes beyond conventions like substituting "@" for "a"), that you probably won't be able to remember it on your own. If you go this route, utilize a password manager like Meldium to remember it for you. If you feel lost at sea without a password you can at least sort of remember, go for length: the longer a password is, the harder it is to crack. Using a unique phrase with three commons words instead of just one — like ILov3T@ylorSwift43v3r!& — can make your password nearly uncrackable. According to HowSecureIsMyPassword, that particular example would take 194 septillion years to crack (you know, the exact length of time that you'll love Taylor Swift).
Don't Repeat Passwords
Okay, you finally came up with a password so great, we'll be deep in the next ice age before anyone comes close to guessing it. Time to use it on all of your accounts, right? Nope, wrong. So wrong. Seventy-five percent of people use the same username and password for their social media accounts and their email. This is why, when a hacker obtains a password, the first thing they typically do is check to see if it works on that user's other websites. So if your company carries the same password — or even a similar one — across multiple accounts, you could be in hot water.
The key is to develop very different passwords for every site you use. R & D engineer Yuriy Guts suggests using pop culture to solve your password woes. Use a song lyric or quote you associate heavily with that specific site — like a favorite line of dialogue from The Social Network for Facebook, perhaps — and transform it into a password by replacing the spaces with underscores, capitalizing the second letter of each word, or otherwise mutating it into a tough password.
Change Your Passwords Regularly
Now that you've got lengthy, unique passwords for all of your accounts, you're probably good forever, right? Not even close, bub. While it's probably not necessary to change your password every three months on, say, your My Little Pony fan forum, most experts agree that corporate login info — the kind that might be shared among multiple employees, increasing the risk of it being transmitted over an insecure website and accidentally falling into the wrong hands — should be changed every three months.
The only real reason not to update regularly is fear of forgetting the new password, or dread over the time suck involved in informing all employees about new passwords. Using Meldium for password management streamlines this process: it uses a single sign-on to give your team access to usernames and passwords for every app your company uses, so you won't have to share the actual passwords with your coworkers every time they're updated. That means increased security, no wasted time, and no more excuses for having the same password you've used since high school ("Blink182Rulz," presumably).
Don't Waste Time Trying to Remember Your Password
Of course, passwords aren't just a security issue — they're also a productivity issue. Each year, companies lose $420 per employee on time wasted trying to remember passwords. Anyone who's gotten locked out of an important office system for hours after putting in the wrong password can relate. Saving your passwords to a single sign-in system like Meldium — which prevents team members from having to remember or share individual passwords, and provides new hires with access to the passwords they need — saves time, which saves money. Which is kind of the bottom line in this whole "business" thing, right?
Don't count on luck or outdated systems to keep your password secure. Use Meldium and save your memory for remembering the important things (like, where you parked your car).
Gabrielle Moss has written mostly funny stuff (but also some serious stuff) for GQ.com, The Hairpin, Nerve, etc. You can follow her here.