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April 08, 2021  |  Contribution by CERT NZ

Are you password perfect?

These days we do a lot online and it sure makes life easier. We pay bills, buy groceries, and keep in touch friends and family. However in doing so, we are accessing and sharing some of our most valuable information about our personal lives and our finances.

This information isn’t just valuable to us, it’s also valuable to cyber attackers. They spend their time trying and get their hands on it and if they do, it can lead to significant damage like financial loss for yourself and your family.

The good news simple steps you can take to help protect yourself, your finances and your family online. One of the easiest ways to do this is good password practice – using long, strong and unique passwords on all your online accounts.

Why good passwords are important

Simple passwords are easier for attackers to ‘guess’. They use software that quickly works through different combinations of letters in the alphabet alongside your username to try and crack your password. If your password is short, it can take a few hours. If your password is long and strong, it can take thousands or millions of years to crack.

A password also needs to be unique meaning it’s not used on any other accounts. If an attacker gets hold of one of your passwords, they can’t get access to all of your other accounts, and you only have to update the password on that one account (not spend a life time updating them all!)

Passphrases make perfect passwords
create a long, strong password that’s easy to remember

Long passwords are strong passwords. An easy way to create a good password is to create a passphrase, that’s four or more random words. Not only are passphrases easier to remember, they’re as strong as a password that uses a long mix of numbers, letters, and symbols.

You can try making a passphrase that’s a sentence or fun phrase unique to you. For example, popcornwithbutterisbest or catseatpotatochips . Another idea is to look around you and pick four random items, for example Coffeelemoncupflowers

Always use words that are random to you, and avoid using things like verses to pop songs, family names, birth dates or addresses – this type of information is easy for people to find.

Sometimes an account will ask you to add numbers and symbols to your password, you can easily include these in your passphrases. For example, 7catsatepotatochips

Keep your passwords safe

A password manager is a good place to store your passwords, and means you only need to remember one set of login details to access all your other passwords. It’s like a digital safe and only you have the key.

If you’re not able to access a password manager, but need help remembering your different passwords you can write them down. It’s important to keep them somewhere safe away from your computer and phone.

Read more here: https://www.cert.govt.nz/password-perfect/

CERT NZ is here to improve cyber security in New Zealand. CERT NZ works alongside other government agencies and organisations — both locally and internationally — to help New Zealand better understand and stay resilient to cyber security threats.