In this rapidly evolving information age, invulnerable password management should sit at the epicenter of business security. Passwords are the hidden keys that protect our most precious data. Often, they unlock information that’s irreplaceable or irretrievable if compromised or lost.
According to a recently published 2021 cyber security report, cybercrime went up by 600% during the Coronavirus pandemic. Over the past year alone, more than 500,000 stolen Zoom passwords were posted for sale on dark web forums.
Passwords are one of the most basic and familiar forms of data protection. Yet poor password practices are often the reason behind the billions of breaches and malicious cyberattacks that happen year after year.
Over 81% of all data breaches occur due to weak or unprotected passwords. Considering this statistic, plus the vast amount of information available that warns us about the dangers of weak passwords, you’d think businesses would put more effort into educating their employees on the importance of secure password management.
However, too many businesses rely on individual employees to create safe passwords when they haven’t been given the tools to know how to do so.
Finding out why so many people struggle with secure password management is a great starting point for initiating a rock-solid protection plan that keeps your business safe from attacks. After all, it only takes one employee’s weak password to put an entire company at risk.
The main reason why employees struggle with creating safe passwords comes down to a lack of education. Despite the huge repercussions that data breaches cause, not many people are fully clued up on how to create (and protect) unbreakable passwords.
Before we look at different ways to install secure password management practices in business, let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for weak employee password security.
When creating a new account, some apps or websites provide users with a randomly generated password. This is referred to as a default password.
While it may seem like a good idea to accept a default password, doing so can mean handing over sensitive information about your router to malicious cyber attackers.
Once they have access to your router, all kinds of trouble can ensue. From control over the network to having data uploaded onto predatory surveillance sites, there are plenty of dangers lurking behind default passwords.
Using an old password is much easier than creating a new one. If you don’t have a secure vault for storing passwords, remembering each one can become tiresome and difficult.
However, despite the inconvenience of memorizing (or storing) your passwords, recycling an old one puts your data at serious risk.
When cyber attackers discover you have reused a password more than once, it will become the first one they attempt to break into other accounts or platforms. All strong passwords are unique and 100% original and never recycled.
These days, password retrieval technology has become so advanced that we no longer take remembrance as seriously as before.
The sheer number of passwords any given person is expected to remember, combined with how easy it is to select “forgot password” and change it at a whim, has made passwords seem less important. The ease with which we can reset a password makes employees perceive passwords as ubiquitous and interchangeable.
Password managers also remove the need to remember numerous passwords. But this technology isn’t infallible either and comes with its own risks.
When it comes down to it, the main reason people continue to underestimate the consequences of weak password security is a lack of understanding and education.
Despite the major damage that a data security breach can cause for individuals and whole businesses, few people are taught the importance of password security.
Hopefully, through articles like this one and password security awareness training, we can put an end to technological casualties over time.
Now that we understand some commonly made mistakes around password security, let’s move on to some practical measures. By following these steps, your business can reach an optimal level of data protection and defense against malicious attacks.
This tip should go without saying. But the number of weak, reused passwords on the internet speaks for itself. Not enough people are creating unique and original passwords. As shocking as it may be, three of the most common passwords in 2020 were:
Make sure to encourage your employees to push themselves a little when it comes to new password generation. Especially if they guard important data. The strongest passwords typically contain a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
Security account questions are the questions you’ll answer in the event of forgetting your password. They are designed to prompt your memory and steer you towards the right password. Some common ones are:
If your security questions are too simple or never updated, it won’t take long for hackers to guess the answer. Make sure to routinely update your security account questions to avoid this.
A VPN is a form of protection that shields your network from potential attacks or intrusions.
By encrypting your online traffic and obscuring your network identity, a trusted VPN hides IP addresses and makes it difficult for third parties to track any movements on your part.
This digital tool is affordable, simple to set up, and can save your business network from leaking sensitive information through passwords.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is one of the most effective ways to prevent a security breach. With every layer of authentication required, you pose a new challenge for cyber attackers, slowing them down and exhausting their resources.
Instead of opting for just one authentication factor (like a password), program your systems to require additional proof of authenticity, such as an OTP (One Time Pin), fingerprint scanner, or QR code to prevent leakage.
Secure password management isn’t difficult, nor does it require special skills. It does however require education and on-going reminders about its importance.
For employers, educating employees about the importance of data security and enforcing strict password protection policies isn't just a good idea, it’s crucial. Strong passwords can mean the difference between a data breach and avoiding a potentially ruinous leak.