The strength of your password is the single most important security feature of your account. Hackers are developing more cunning strategies and sophisticated technology to exploit weak passwords. A substantial amount of accounts are compromised because hackers have employed password cracking software to break weak passwords. Your accounts will be much better protected if you understand how to safeguard against brute force cracking attempts.
Take Extra Precautions with High Privilege Accounts
Most systems have a default account name setup. I highly recommend that you use something different. This will force hackers to take the time to learn your admin and other privileged usernames before they can even start trying to hack your system.
Additionally, you want to make sure that you have stricter security privileges on any of your more important accounts. These accounts should also have the strongest passwords and those passwords should be changed two to three times more often than the passwords for your other accounts.
Make Your Passwords Complex
Many people still choose surprisingly weak passwords. This is the primary reason most accounts are hacked so easily. Make sure that you choose a password of sufficient length. Experts traditionally recommended keeping your password would be at least 9 characters long and using both letters and numbers. They are now recommending that you use longer passwords (such as 14 characters) and using special characters as well.
Some people feel that might be a little paranoid, but I disagree. There is nothing paranoid about taking all necessary precautions to protect your machines against complicated password cracking attacks. Keep in mind that hacking technology is evolving and you need to continue to adapt to it.
Use Account Lockout Features
A password cracker could theoretically break any password if it was given enough time. That is what account lockout features were implemented for. You can shut out anyone who tries to access your account after several unsuccessful attempts.
This effectively destroys the usefulness of any password cracking tool and forces hackers to learn your password through social engineering or more sophisticated efforts. Unfortunately, most people don’t use account lockout features on their machines, which leaves them much more vulnerable to password cracking attempts.
Change Your Passwords Periodically
It bears repeating that any password can be hacked with enough time. Even a very complex password can be hacked within a couple of months. Consider implementing a policy that requires everyone in your organization to change their passwords every month or two. This will continually force hackers to start from square one when they try to exploit your machine.
It is almost scary how sophisticated password cracking software has become in recent months. Some of these tools can literally try over 8 billion password combinations in a single second. Take all possible measures to avoid leaving your computer vulnerable to such an attack.
About the guest author: Kalen Smith is technology and security advice writer for Trend Micro, where he shares information on Cyber Crime and other important topics.
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