Business Technology

A guide on creating strong passwords to defeat hackers

3 min read

25 June 2014

Companies of all sizes are vulnerable to hackers, and while a data breach is a problem no matter what size your company is, for small businesses, it can be particularly acute.

And although there are many security products on the market, passwords remain a preferred gateway for hackers. So using stronger passwords is a great place to start when you want to improve your cyber-security. The length and complexity of the password will make a huge difference in the time it takes to crack a code.

1. Two minutes…

That’s how long it takes to hack a five-character password with all lowercase letters. In other words, in the time it takes you to place a fast-food order and receive your food, a hacker could gain access to your most sensitive business data.

2. Ten minutes…

A hacker has gained access through your five-character password with lowercase letters and numbers. If you walk your dog around the block, you’ll have spent about the same amount of time it takes for a hacker to crack a simple password and access information.

3. An hour…

It takes an hour to hack a five-character password with upper and lowercase letters. Hackers can access, copy and distribute your business information in approximately the same time it takes for you to watch a television programme.

4. 17 years…

Only 17 years later, will a hacker defeat an eight-character password with upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. It would take a hacker approximately as long as it takes a parent to raise a child to adulthood to crack a complex password.

Tips on creating a foolproof password

The obvious message here is that the more complex the password, the less vulnerable it is to hacking. Most cyber thieves who encounter a hard-to-crack password will move on to more vulnerable targets. But the challenge is to create passwords that are tough to guess but easy to remember. 

Numbers that resemble letters 

This way the password is memorable yet complex enough to withstand a hacking attempt. For example, the word “Goodnight” could be transformed into a stronger password by entering it in as “G00dn19ht.”

Keyboard mapping 

Keyboard mapping will transform an easy-to-remember password into a tough-to-crack code. Think of a word, and instead of typing in the actual word, type in the key above and to the left of each letter. Using this technique, the word “Werewolf” becomes “@34329or.”

Sentences

Think of a sentence and create a password using the first letter of each word, plus numbers and punctuation. With this technique, Hamlet’s famous “To be, or not to be” line can become “2B,on2B?” – a more challenging, complex password.

Bill Carey is vice president of Marketing & Business Development for the RoboForm Password Manager

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