Passwords. The world online is littered with them, from shopping to banking information to even booking a gym session, users can't click without a password. Gate-keepers of our personal information, passwords provide protection; a buffer between private and public. That's until they fall into the wrong hands.
Over the past few months, several big names have had password problems. First up it was the social media giants Twitter. Fresh off the back of its record 20 million US election tweets, later many Twitter users found they couldn't access their accounts and had received emails advising them to reset their passwords. The company denied there it being to do with a security issue, with a statement on its blog reporting that it was just an on-going part of the brand's user protection. It also stated that when it looks like a user's account has been compromised, Twitter resets the password. But it added that, in this instance, more had been reset than was necessary.
Then, a few weeks later, it was the turn of communications company Skype. The Microsoft-owned brand, which is used by some 250 million people, experienced a security issue that had the potential to lock users out of their accounts. There were none of the usual checks such as email confirmation, which meant that all that was needed to sign on was the user name and email address. This meant that potential hackers, providing they knew a user's email and user name, could easily log on, change the users' password and take over the accounts.
There's been continued debate both within tech industries and in the wider public domain recently about the question of passwords and security. Some experts reckon passwords no longer offer an adequate level of protection anymore. And because of the level of information stored by this system, they say it's time to get serious. Because, as they put it, the consequences of someone stealing users' passwords are immense. It could lead to hackers obtaining financial information, controlling all forms of communication from users' Facebook page to Twitter handles. In essence, it would be like being locked out of your home; but its worse, because it's your entire life.
So why risk it? Experts like Kate Craig-Wood offer plenty of solid password security tips and advice, and it would be worth anyone's while taking a look and her recommendations. For instance have you heard of PWGen? It's what Kate uses for her company, Memset, and its staff. It's a professional password generator, which creates seriously strong passwords.
Now, given the password proliferation online, the temptation could be to use the same one. It saves time and it's easy to remember right? Well, that's great news for you and the potential hacker because it makes it easier for them too. That's not to say you can't ever duplicate a password, but, as Kate says, be careful which sites you do this for and only when it's sites that aren't security risks.
And of course, with so many different passwords, there's the problem of keeping track of all of them. It's vital to engage a secure storage device for this. KeePass is a popular choice. Unlocked with a master password, you can store all your passwords in here as well as getting the system to come up with passwords for you.