October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Part 2

NCSAMIn Part 2 of this blog’s Cyber Security Awareness focus, here are some general recommendations for keeping your information safe from my university technology department:

Use Unique Passwords For Each Site

This may seem overwhelming, but with the use of a proper password manager, it can be done. Let’s say you don’t feel you can handle that many passwords though. You should, at minimum, have a unique password for your email and bank account logins. Here is why: The Holy Grail of account access for a person with ill intent is your email account. If you think about it, it makes sense, everything else connects to that. How does any other account do a password reset? It emails you a link. If someone gains access to your email account, they effectively gain access to everything. As for your bank account, there is so much that you can do with online banking now-a-days that access to your bank account is essentially direct access to your money.

But how does having a unique password help? When a hacker gains access to one account, the first thing they often do is check to see if that username and password work on anything else. It’s like finding a key and then checking every door to see if it will open, with a focus on the doors that guard the most important stuff.

Create Secure Passwords

There are many options for generating secure, memorable passwords. First, be sure to avoid including any personal information as part of your password. Don’t use the name, birth date, initials, or anniversaries of yourself, your family, or your pets. Don’t use common passwords like 123456 or password. You can find a list of the top 500 passwords here. Don’t use any of those.

One method for generating a secure password is stringing together four unrelated words. A primary example is XKCDs popular “correct horse battery staple“. Just don’t utilize words that might be obvious, like “MikeJohnAnneSuzy” if those are the names of your children. Another method would be to utilize first letters of a long phrase or scripture. For example, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” turns into “ItbGcth&te”, which might be a good password if I hadn’t just provided it as an example here. Need a number for the password requirement? Change it to “1tbGcth&te”.

There are many other methods for generating a secure, memorable password. You can find several more examples here.


Learn more at the NCSAM website

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Part 1 Post

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Part 3 Post