You may think that most hacking attempts are focused on high profile targets, where there will be the most to gain from either acquiring high value confidential information or a large amount of money. But more and more we're seeing that anyone can be a good target for a smaller ransom - lots of smaller hacks can yield a large payout and there may be less chance of the individual hacks being reported.
To protect yourself sometimes all you need to have is a stronger password than the next person down the list.
Here's how to create strong passwords:
- Use a Password Manager.
My number one tip will always be to use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass to generate the passwords for you, keep them safe, and sync across your devices. You can choose the password length (longer the better) and if it should contain characters, symbols, numbers (it should have all of these). Yes, it takes a little time to go through all of the sites you use and generate new passwords, then save them, but it is 150% worth doing. Your 'Master Password' for the password manager or vault, then needs to be equally strong but you have to come up with that one yourself. Read on to find out how.
- Use a unique password for every app/website.
If you do not want to do #1 and use a password manager to generate them for you - or you are trying to come up with a strong Master Password - the least you can do is have a solidly unique password for each app / site you use. It's not okay to use your favourite football team + your year of birth for every single thing you use. Now, it is going to get hard to remember all of these unique passwords, so you may want to look in to getting that password manager sorted...just sayin'.
- Always include letters, digits & symbols.
When you create your own passwords, you want to make sure that you always use a combination of letters, digits, and symbols to make it as hard as possible for a hacker to crack. That doesn't mean you can add '123' to the end of your default password or change every 'S' to a '5'. That's the first thing a hacker would try. If you can't come up with something complicated on your own, maybe look in to that password manager again because it can generate you some super strong ones to keep your accounts safe.
- Make your passwords looooooooong.
I know, I know, the longer your password is the harder it is to remember. But a long password will also take longer to hack. Sometimes you're just looking to deter the hacker and get them to move on to an easier target. If they can't hack you quickly then they may give up and move on to that other guy who used '[email protected]' for everything.
- Don't write your passwords down.
There is no point in creating strong passwords containing all the right elements if you are going to keep a note of them on a piece of paper or post-it near your computer. This is once again where your password manager comes in. I have a more techie friend who uses an encrypted open-source database called KeyPass to store their passwords, then share the file via their Dropbox which is synced across all of their devices. But for ease of setup and access, there's always 1Password, LastPass or DashLane.