Strengthen passwords for optimum data loss prevention

by Charles Leaver

November 5, 2013

access_time 4 min read

In today's technological age, nearly every system, from smartphones and computers to enterprise networks and intranet systems, is password protected. While passwords can be a first line of defense against attackers seeking to cause data leakage, if this security measure is not sufficiently strong or easily guessed, sensitive information could be easy prey for cyber criminals.

In order to strengthen data leak prevention strategies, the following tips should be applied to every company's password practices:

Building a strong password
Strong passwords include different characteristics, and also avoid certain obvious words and phrases that can enable a hacker to guess a password without much difficulty. ConnectSafely recommended that users build a password using eight characters or more, as a longer password is harder to decode. Additionally, passwords should include a variety of different characters, such as a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols where available. Users can also utilize symbols or numbers to represent letters to make passwords easier to remember; for example, use the number one to represent the letter L or I, or the dollar sign to represent the letter S.

ConnectSafely also suggested using an acronym as a password that contains the first letters of an easily remembered phrase. For example, a user can utilize the phrase "I graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2012" as a memory device to remember their password "IgfNIUi2012." The resulting password is varied, original and also very hard to guess, even for someone who knows the user.

Change your password after risky activities
According to information from the University of Chicago's IT Services, users should avoid utilizing public Wi-Fi networks at places like hotels, cafes, parks and other areas to access sensitive information. These connections are most often unprotected access points, and cybercriminals could potentially access the online activities of anyone utilizing the network. If one absolutely must use such a public, unsecured connection, he or she should be sure to change their password immediately afterward on a protected network.

UC IT Services also advised users who travel abroad to change their passwords once they return home and can connect to a secure network. There are several malware strains that target visitors in different countries, and such infections can seek out and steal a user's username and other login credentials.

Even when a user does not engage in risky online behavior, he or she should change their password on a regular basis simply for increased security reasons. UC IT Services stated that the longer a password is utilized, the more likely it will be that a hacker will be able to decode it. Changing passwords on a regular basis can help prevent this issue.