All You Need to Know About Passwords

by Brandon Ackroyd - , Last Updated on February 15, 2016, How To Guides

Most of us keep a whole bunch of private and personal information on our phones, but just how safe is that info? Sure, you might have everything password protected, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re safe. If you want to really be sure that you’re protecting your data then you’re going to need to know a little bit more about passwords, and that’s why we’re here, to give you the full low down!

What Are the Stakes?

The stakes here are actually pretty high. Okay, having someone get into your Facebook account isn’t very nice, but it’s a mild inconvenience compared to other password protected apps that you probably have. What about your online banking? Many of us have apps for that, and can use that app to send money anywhere. Or your email? Again, email might contain some pretty useful info for identity thieves. Your data is incredibly sensitive, and identity theft is a real threat. From unwanted pictures being posted online to bank accounts being emptied and houses being robbed, there are some solid reasons for wanting to protect your personal info as far as possible. And for most of us, that’s where passwords come in…

Passwords, Codes, and Patterns

Probably your first level of defence on your mobile is your lock screen, meaning that a casual person can’t just open up your phone. In general, you’ll have three choices here, though some phones have only two. Nearly every mobile gives you the option of having either a four digit passcode or a pattern, some phones also give you the option of a password. Out of those choices, a password is the most secure, simply because it gives you more potential options (there’s a limited choice of 4 digit numbers and of nine point patterns, whereas there are many more combinations of letters and signs that can be used in a password). So if you’re looking to be safe, this is going to be your first step. If your phone doesn’t offer you a password option, you might want to look into downloading an app from the app store of your choice that will let you add this function.

Passwords: The Bad

But not all passwords are created equal. We get it, you’re in a hurry, you want something easy to remember, so you opt for a simple word. Unfortunately, so do many other people, and hackers and identity thieves know this. The most common passwords are, in order: 123456, password, and 12345678. Sport words such as football, and phrases such as letmein also rank pretty highly. But why is this a bad thing?

There are a couple of issues here. Simple to guess passwords such as these are, well, simple to guess. It’s not going to take even a casual hacker more than a few minutes to figure out how to get into your phone or account. Secondly, they’re also all the same character. Sets of easily remembered numbers or real words/sentences make bad passwords because all a hacker needs is a programme that runs through all the words in a dictionary, or all the common number sequences and he can automatically get into your info. The same goes for other commonly chosen passwords, such as your birthday or your pet’s name, those things are just too easy to guess, and both are information that’s easily available elsewhere…

Passwords: The Good

So what makes a good password then? Well, there are a few rules. Firstly, you should use at least 12 characters. Secondly, there should be a mixture of characters (big and small letters AND numbers AND signs such as punctuation). Thirdly, your password should be unique, which is bad news for the kind of people that like to use the same password for more than one account… A good example of that, try this: Exk65XDh&!fLl23. Maybe you see a problem there? It’s a great password, very secure, but just how on earth are you supposed to remember all that?!

Maybe the simplest solution to that is to use a password manager app to do the remembering for you. There are plenty around, and it’s a simple concept. The password manager remembers all your passwords for you, and you just need to remember one password (the password for your password manager app). Unless you have a photographic memory, password manager apps can be a life saver. In addition, many such apps will also generate random passwords for you to use, which can be pretty useful and a time saver.

What About Other Solutions?

Of course, if you’re at the top of the tech ladder, you might not be using passwords at all, since many top end phones these days have fingerprint sensors. Is a fingerprint lock as safe as a password? Yes, and no. Right now, probably yes, since enough people still use passwords that most hackers concentrate on cracking codes rather than on fingerprints. In the future, probably not. Why? Because you leave your fingerprints everywhere that you go, and getting that fingerprint is easier than you might think. Sure, it will take some work to figure out how to take a fingerprint from, say, a glass and get it to unlock your phone, but someone will do this, in the same way as it took a lot of work to write a programme that systematically tried every word in a dictionary to try and hack a password.

Potentially the safest kind of security will be iris scanners, which scan the unique pattern in your eye, though this tech is expensive and unlikely to be really used on mobiles for some time to come. Since you can’t leave “eye prints” everywhere you go, an iris scanner could keep your info truly safe.

Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that if you want to keep your data safe than the best current method we have is a password, but that has to be a decent password, and that means choosing wisely. Yes, coming up with a random collection of letters, numbers and signs and then remembering it is work, but if you think about what you’re trying to protect, coming up with a good, safe password is more than worth it. A few minutes of your time and your personal info will be as safe as you can make it, and that has to count for something…

Photo credit: portalgda