Managing numerous passwords can be quite frustrating for anyone. Weak passwords are prone to hacking while strong passwords are cumbersome and hard to remember. However, passwords are our first line of defense against unexpected threats. Despite multiple attempts, we still haven’t mastered a technology that completely replaces passwords. Our best option today is to incorporate various password security best practices and build a resilient defense against unexpected cyberattacks.
In this blog, we’ll explore the different aspects of password security the best practices you can follow to boost your digital security.
Why is password security important?
Today’s businesses are heavily reliant on technology for their day-to-day operations. While this has enabled them to compete effectively in a crowded market, it also exposes them to various risks. Ever since data has become the number one asset in the modern world, cybercriminals are on the lookout for any institutional data they can get their hands on.
They do this by targeting an organization’s IT environment, which contains a range of different devices, software solutions, applications and more. All these assets guard critical data that can be accessed with the help of passwords. These passwords are your first line of defense against cybercriminals.
Weak passwords provide an easy gateway for cybercriminals to access an organization’s infrastructure. Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach report estimates that 81% of all breaches result from compromised passwords. Due to this, password security is highly important for businesses of all kinds.
10 password security best practices
Businesses have realized that strong passwords are the best deterrent against unauthorized access to their IT infrastructure. However, what exactly is a strong password? Here is a list of password security best practices that everyone must follow to boost password security in their organizations.
1. Create lengthy and complex passwords
One of the key characteristics of a strong password is its length and complexity. A lengthy passphrase with over eight characters of both uppercase and lowercase letters is a good one for critical accounts. The best passwords usually have at least 12 characters. In addition to alphabets, a strong password should also have a combination of numbers, symbols, special characters, etc.
When creating passwords, it is always better to avoid familiar words or common words. Usually, misspelled or fake words with a lot of symbols and numbers work best for passwords. With more length and complexity, you can create strong passwords that are difficult to break.
2. Keep passwords confidential
It goes without saying that your passwords should not be shared with anyone, no matter how close they are to you. Besides keeping them to yourself, you should also secure your passwords by not writing them down in easily accessible places. In this digital world, writing down your passwords on sticky notes is not going to cut it when it comes to security.
3. Use unique passwords for every account
Many people use the same passwords for multiple accounts or add minor variations when reusing them. This is not a smart way of doing things when it comes to password security. Once hackers breach one of your accounts, they typically perform a credential-stuffing attack to gain entry into other accounts on different platforms.
If you reuse the same passwords for different accounts, there is a possibility of multiple accounts getting compromised in a single cyberattack. Develop a habit of creating unique passwords for all your accounts so that even if one of your accounts is compromised, others will remain safe.
4. No personal information
It is not a good practice to create passwords based on personal information. These passwords can be easily guessed by someone close to you. Also, in this age of social media, a lot of your personal information, like your birthday, hometown, street name or school name, can be easily accessed by anyone.
When you create passwords or security questions based on this information, it becomes easy for hackers to gain access to your accounts. Create passwords based on random words, numbers or symbols that have no special meaning to you. Also, create security questions that cannot be tied back to your personal information under any circumstances.
5. Test password strength
You may think you have created a strong password but how can you know for sure? This is why you need to test the strength of your password. Most online platforms come with a default analyzer to test your password strength. While this can provide you with a solid start, it may not always give you the best idea against passwords that are compromised already.
There are software tools that compare your passwords against already compromised passwords and provide you suggestions to improve. Make sure you always test your passwords before using them for critical accounts.
6. Store Passwords Securely
It is always a good idea to avoid storing your passwords – digitally or on paper. When you write your passwords down on paper, it is highly likely that you might misplace them. Also, there is a great chance that your passwords could get compromised by malicious internal actors.
Many people store their passwords in their browsers through the “autosave” option. If hackers get hold of your computer, all your accounts could be compromised with a single breach.
7. Enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA)
With cyberthreats lurking in every corner of the world, your passwords alone are not enough to secure your critical accounts. You need to add an extra layer of security by incorporating multifactor authentication for all your accounts. Even if your passwords get compromised, hackers won’t be able to gain access without this additional security authentication.
There are different ways to incorporate MFA. The most common way is to receive a security code on your mobile device. However, there are also other ways like biometric access, voice recognition, personalized USB token, etc. You need to pick the one that best suits your security goals.
8. Enforce Privileged Access Management (PAM)
This is a security strategy that enforces the principle of least privilege. It incorporates additional control for privileged access to high-level accounts in the IT environment. In other words, this strategy restricts user access rights and privileges to the absolute minimum. By restricting access to your critical accounts, you can significantly mitigate the damages arising from external and internal actors.
9. Stay vigilant
All your security efforts will work only if you stay vigilant. With cyberthreats constantly evolving day by day, your security efforts should not be a one-and-done affair. The following list of tasks will help you monitor your IT environment effectively and ensure up-to-date security measures.
- Periodically review for compromised credentials: Make sure your passwords don’t end up on the dark web by performing a periodic review of compromised credentials. This can be done with the help of a dark web monitoring program like ID agent.
- Beware of public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi networks can be easily hacked by cybercriminals. Always use VPN when connecting to untrusted networks.
- Avoid shared devices: When accessing company files, avoid using public computers from internet cafes. It is also a good idea to avoid using your personal computers to access company information.
- Change passwords when employees leave: When an employee leaves, their credentials must be instantly deactivated, and shared passwords must be changed swiftly. Refer to our employee offboarding checklist to check out the list of security measures you must take.
- Secure mobile devices: Employees in many organizations use their mobile phones to conduct business and access company information. These devices must be secured with strong passwords, fingerprints and face recognition.
10. Use a password manager
When you have a password manager, all you have to remember is just one password. You can create and manage multiple passwords for different accounts with the help of a robust password manager. Modern-day solutions like IT Glue come with host-proof hosting that encrypts your passwords, making them inaccessible to anyone other than you.
Password security FAQs
Password security is a broad topic that covers different aspects of securing your IT environments. Here is a list of commonly asked questions to help you gain more insights on the subject.
What is the “8 4 Rule” for creating strong passwords?
This is one of the basic rules formulated for creating strong passwords. According to it, a password should have at least eight characters with at least one character from four different groups – uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Password security has evolved a lot since the formulation of this rule. Now, it is ideal for your critical passwords to have at least 12 characters with different combinations of numbers and symbols.
Is it better to have a long or complex password?
The computing power of today’s brute force attacks is extremely high. Due to this, a strong password has to be both lengthy and complex. However, to answer which is more important, let’s focus on password entropy. Password entropy, which signifies password strength, typically gets higher with the increase in length. An eight-character password comprising random characters is much easier to crack than a 12-character or more passphrase with moderately complex elements.
Do frequent password changes improve security?
In the earlier days, frequent password change was one of the key strategies to ensure password security. However, in today’s landscape, this strategy is not going to help you so much unless the password is already compromised. A strong, unique password with good length and complexity can serve you a much longer time than six months. When you use it with a robust password manager, you can probably use it for life.
What is the most secure way to keep passwords?
Leveraging a password management solution is the best way to go when it comes to ensuring digital security. Most people already have bad password habits like using common phrases, creating shorter passwords, reusing the same passwords and more. This can be quite dangerous considering the different levels of threats like phishing scams, credential stuffing attacks, brute-force attacks, etc.
When you use a robust password manager, you can automatically get warnings for poor password habits. Besides being easy to use, it maintains your passwords in an encrypted vault that cannot be cracked easily. Also, you can maintain all your passwords securely just by remembering one single password.
Manage passwords securely with IT Glue
IT Glue is a powerful documentation solution that comes with a robust password engine. IT Glue allows you to securely store and access both your business personal passwords and team-based passwords. Most importantly, you can easily relate your passwords to the rest of your IT documentation.
IT Glue has granular permissions, so you can control who can access the passwords. It also has OTP for admin passwords, so multiple technicians can securely access admin accounts like Office 365. It also comes with SSO, IP access control, host-proof hosting, MFA, audit trails and more, all within a SOC 2 Type II compliant solution.
To know more about how IT Glue can help you with password security, request a demo.