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Is Your Password Secure?

One of the saddest things that has happened in the digital age is the rise of hackers –  those people who have nothing better to do than to wreak havoc on other people’s websites, whether it simply be for sport or for shear maliciousness.

To gain access to websites, a lot of these people tend to do what are called brute force attacks or dictionary attacks, where they continue bombarding a login screen wanting a username and password. At OffWhite, we take security very seriously and are trying to make our clients well aware of the dangers that can occur, especially starting with something as simple as password protection.

As a general rule of thumb, passwords should not be something easily guessed and they should always contain a mix of lowercase/uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. For each character that you add, the difficulty goes up exponentially. The problem is, most people aren’t going to remember a password that looks like a jumbled mess of gibberish. They stick to the basics of “password” or “abc123” – something that they can easily remember. Taking a little bit of time to create a good password can save your company money in the long run.

A simple solution is to harken back to when you were in school and used a technique called mnemonics. Who doesn’t remember learning the colors of the rainbow by the name Roy G. Biv? Or if you happened to be a math guy like myself and used my good friend Sohcahtoa to remember how to calculate the sine, cosine, or tangent of angles in a right triangle? The point that is being made here is that you can create passwords that are difficult for others to guess, while still being relatively easy for you to remember. On a show called "Brain Games," they talked about a five step process to create such passwords. 

  1. Our first step is to create a saying or phrase that is a sentence or two long. We’ll use this as our example: “To be or not to be, that is the question”
  2. In the second step, we will take the first letter of each word in our phrase and make them all lower case letters. That give us the following: tbontbtitq

    This may look like gibberish, but you’re well on your way to creating a strong password. 
  3. Now, the third step is to change some of these letters to uppercase letters. One way that this can be accomplished is to make any letter in the first or second half of the alphabet uppercase. For our example, we will make all letters in the first half of the alphabet uppercase. This now makes our password look like this: tBontBtItq

    By capitalizing the “b’s”, and the “i”, we are continuing to exponentially make this a tougher nut to crack.
  4. The fourth step is to add in some meaningful numbers. For example, you can change all “o’s” to a zero, change all “i’s” to the number one, or you could add a meaningful number to the end, beginning, or somewhere in the middle (like the 25th for your birthday). For our example, we will change the “o” to a zero and the “i” to a one. This gives us: tB0ntBt1tq
  5. Finally, you can add in some symbols, such as an exclamation mark or a question mark to give us our final password that looks like this: tB0ntBt1tq?

While this may seem slightly complicated, try it and see what you can come up with. This gives you a very personalized password that is very tough to crack. You can use this method for all of your different sites, whether it’s for personal use or simply using passwords to log into your administrative back end. I would also recommend not using the same passwords for multiple sites, and it’s also good practice to change your passwords every so often. 

In fact, just because I’m a numbers guy, I’ll throw this last tidbit at you. If you have a twelve-character password using lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and symbols, the possible number of passwords comes to a staggering number over 540 sextillion combinations (that’s 540 followed by 21 zeros). That would definitely take some time to crack.

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