Passwords. These, among other security measures, are what stand between your sensitive information and hackers and criminals online. If any of your passwords are so simple a child could crack them then you should probably stop and reconsider your priorities online.
This week, researchers working for an online security firm discovered a website containing more than 2 million stolen passwords used for sites like Facebook, Google and Yahoo. Experts suspect the data was taken from individual computers that were infected with software that captures key strokes, the BBC reported.
While malicious online hackers aren't new, an interesting detail emerged among the researchers' findings: the most popular password -- found in the database more than 15,000 times -- was "123456."
Of course, as our daily lives continue to migrate online, some people might find it difficult to remember complicated passwords for a growing number of accounts. But using overly simplistic passwords can point to at least two significant problems.
The first and most obvious is that you set a dangerously low barrier for criminals. A person can simply guess your password without requiring the aid of malicious technology.
The second and arguably more severe problem is that a disregard for password security could reflect an ignorance or indifference to online security in general.
In this particular situation, software recorded people's passwords as they typed them -- no matter if they were strong or weak. But is someone who uses 123456 as a password likely to have and use firewall protection and anti-virus software that could have blocked that malicious software in the first place?
Are they online savvy enough to steer clear of sketchy sites and emails and links that are designed to steal their valuable information?
If you want to beef up your password security, consider the following tips:
- Make them complicated. You'll want to use upper and lower case letters as well as numbers. Longer passwords are generally more secure than shorter ones.
- Remember them. Passwords made up of letters and numbers and funny characters aren't always easy to recall. One trick is to pick long words you like and won't forget, remove the vowels and replace them with numbers you'll remember.
- Mix it up. Don't use the same password across numerous accounts. If a hacker cracks the password for one account, he or she could then gain access to the other accounts with the same password.