In order to minimize the potential for attackers to gain unauthorized access to an account, a strong password is essential. On a related note, it must be stated that items like personal computers, Kindles and smartphones (as examples) have what is called a “management user” that oversees the computer’s system and all users.
The management user is also known as the administrator account and attackers prefer learning this password which will then allow them greater access and manipulation of the device.
Unauthorized use of a password can result in consequences that include, but are not limited to the following:
- Loss of important information
- Fraudulent use of credit card
- Affecting credit score and history
- Identity theft and accompanying legal problems
- Illegal banking transactions, loss of funds, incurred debt
Below is useful advice on how to make a password stronger and what apps and services are available to help in the process.
What does a strong password contain?
Password strength refers to the degree to which the password effectively fends off cyber-attacks. In simple terms, how many times must attackers try to determine a password before they are successful?
Strong passwords have a minimum of 6-8 characters that include letters, numbers and symbols. The general rule is that there are at least two uppercase letters. In addition, creating random passwords makes it harder for attackers to figure them out. The more complex the password, the better it is.
Given the highly-sophisticated means by which attackers learn passwords, it is important to note that on average a nine character password can be broken in as little as five days. Ten characters require nearly four months and eleven would take ten years. Twelve character passwords would, therefore, need 200 years to crack.
The best way to create a strong password is by using a password manager that has the following features:
- Apps for each platform
- Assimilate with all browsers
- Offer basic services for free
Popular Password Apps and Services
Services provided by password managers include:
- Stores all passwords that have been used
- Creates stronger passwords
The best thing about the service is that the user must only recall one password to gain access to the password manager.
The advantages of using LastPass are that it is a free app designed for desktops and phones. Services include:
- Auto-populates website passwords and information used in completing forms
- Produces and recalls passwords for the user
- Alerts the user about duplicate passwords or the need to change the current one
- Charges only $1 to allow user to sync passwords
This is another popular password manager that operates similarly to LastPass. The difference is that the cost to sync passwords is $3. Unique features allow Dashlane to stand apart from other apps and services. Among them are:
- Digital wallet that saves banking information
- Records all receipts
This manager allows users to download the app onto their desktop and mobile devices. However, syncing information requires a subscription for services. There are standard features for creating strong passwords and auto-filling forms. One service that is unique to Sticky Password is called “biometric confirmation” that lets the user confirm his/her identity all mobile devices. For premium subscribers, there are additional services:
- Allows Wi-Fi syncing for all devices
- Backup protection against loss of data or devices
A premium subscription costs users $20 per year.
This manager offers the same basic services as the others. But, KeePassX differentiates itself from the pack in that there is full disclosure of its source code and audits may be performed by independent analysts to ensure the service is working properly. KeePassX is fully transparent.
KeePassX is easy to use with a wide variety of other password apps for mobile devices. However, one key point to remember is that syncing passwords through KeePassX requires uploading the password onto Google Drive or DropBox.
There are important points to consider when using free versus paid apps and services:
- Free managers provide only the basics – using a free service means the user must understand the limits of the provider
- Paid apps and managers provide more-advanced services as can be expected – you get what you pay for
- Whether one uses a free or paid service is par for the course. Any type of protection is better than no protection and with that, everyone should consider using a password manager