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Cybersecurity should be more complex than 123456

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It's essential to protect yourself against cyber attacks in the world we live in today. Here's just one example that should make you think twice about better security:

Several bugs in Microsoft, Ubuntu, and Tesla products were found and exploited during a hacking conference in Vancouver.

Yes, they have hacking conferences.

Cyber security is easy to disregard but should be at the top of your list to protect yourself or your business. Just one breach could be catastrophic.

The Identity Theft Research Center reported these variations in 2021:

MeetMindful Cybersecurity Breach

The dating app MeetMindful suffered a cybersecurity attack in January 2021, resulting in data of more than two million users being stolen and leaked.

CNA Financial Breach

A ransomware attack on the insurance firm CNA Financial left employees locked out of their systems and blocked from accessing corporate resources.

Social Media Cyberattack

530 million Facebook users' data was published online in April 2021. Facebook said the information was obtained through scraping in 2019.

Your chances of security

If companies like CNA and Facebook get hacked, what chance do you have to prevent a cyber attack? The answer may be as simple as “123456.”

Incredibly, “123456” is the most common password used in most places worldwide. Others that rank high are “password” and “qwerty” (look down at your keyboard, and you'll see why that is popular). But simplistic options are not the only troubling trend in common passwords.

What's in a Name?

Unfortunately, the answer to that Shakesperean question is an easy clue to someone’s password. 

  • 42.3% use their first name in online passwords they create
  • 40% use their last name
  • 31.6% use their middle name

Other popular personal details used commonly in passwords are date of birth, social security number, phone number, pet's name, child's name, or ex-partner’s name.

How to use stronger passwords

Common passwords are bad passwords. It’s that simple. Why? They are too easy for a hacker to guess. But what is a strong password? Here are some suggestions:

  • Long: Most experts recommend 12 to 15 (or more)characters for a strong password.
  • Random: Letters, numbers, and symbols with no particular meaning are the strongest passwords. You can find random password generators online.
  • Unique: It's simple, use a different password for every account. Repeating passwords or formulas means hackers only need to find one password to get more.

A strong password is the front line of defense against cyber attacks. But there are other measures you can take to strengthen your defenses.

According to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, there are four fundamental steps to take to keep yourself cyber safe:

  • Implement multi-factor authentication. This makes it 99% less likely you’ll get hacked. 
  • Update your software. In fact, turn on automatic updates.  
  • Think before you click. 90% of cyber-attacks originate with phishing emails.  

The fourth is... you guessed it... a strong password!

Victoria University in Australia also has advice on keeping your websites safe:

Check if you’ve already experienced a security breach - Visit haveibeenpwned.com and take measures for any accounts that it suggests may have been compromised.

Trust no one (on emails) - Always be vigilant and skeptical of misleading emails and compromised web pages (spam and phishing). Interaction with these puts your information at risk and can download viruses.

Secure your device - If your mobile device is unsecured, lost, or stolen, hackers could use it to access your info and steal your money, identity or data. 

  • install anti-virus software
  • set a password, gesture, or fingerprint that must be entered to unlock
  • set the device to require a password when installing applications
  • leave Bluetooth hidden when not in use and disable automatic connection to networks
  • enable remote locking and/or wiping functions if your device supports them.

The world we live in

Like it or not, the world is digital and interconnected. So, while we must protect ourselves, it takes all of us to protect the systems we rely on. Being cyber smart is contagious. Take basic steps and help your friends and co-workers do the same.

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