Tech Tip: Use Strong Passwords

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Thanks to powerful brute-force attack software readily available online, hackers can try tens of millions of possible password combinations per second. To give you an idea, hacking software can guess a five-character password in under three hours. If you only use lowercase letters, it’s 11.9 seconds.

You know you need to have a better password than “password” or “letmein” if you have any hope of keeping hackers out of your PC. But what does a “strong” password mean?

A good password should be at least eight characters long (longer is better!), a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols that are hard to guess. Don’t use dictionary words with proper capitalization — like Password123# — because they’re easy to guess. Even though that example meets the requirements just mentioned, it’s easily hacked.

Remember, hackers have sophisticated password-hacking software that will run 24/7/365. If you want a quick tip for remembering your password, use a phrase and insert letters and numbers into it, like $h@KeNb8ke.

Alan Edwards, CISM, is chief information officer at Computerware, Inc., in Vienna, Virginia.

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