Safe And Sound: How To Create Strong Passwords

Safe And Sound: How To Create Strong Passwords

Leadership | Posted by - May 2, 2016 at 1:00 am

How vulnerable is your business to cyber attack? If you're like most small business owners, you’re likely at a higher risk than you think.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating passwords is using a phrase that is easy to remember – and unfortunately, easy to hack.

A recent study showed that 80% of small business owners aren't taking sufficient measures to protect data, although small businesses are at increased risk of cyber attack. Given that just one data breach can put you out of business – and roughly half are caused by weak passwords – it's wise to take steps to protect your company now.

Start by reviewing the strength of your passwords. If you're guilty of using the same password for multiple accounts – or are one of the many who use "password" as a password – now is the time to put best practices to use.

Avoid Common Pitfalls

One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating passwords is using a phrase that is easy to remember – and unfortunately, easy to hack.

A highly secure password needs to be unique. It may take a bit more time to come up with a strong password, but it's worth the effort. Here are some of the common mistakes to avoid when creating passwords:

  • Don't use birthdates, nicknames or pet names.

  • Don't use complete words; break them up with numbers and symbols.

  • Don't use words spelled backwards.

  • Don't use numeric sequences (e.g. 12345).

  • Don't use your name, company name or user name.

  • Don't save your password on your computer, tablet or device where personal info is stored.

Here’s a great resource: visit Microsoft's online Safety & Security Centre for more information on safe password do's and don'ts.

Secure Password Tips

To keep your personal data safe, follow these tips for creating secure passwords:

  • Create password phrases that are at least 8 characters long.

  • Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters.

  • Include symbols, punctuation marks and numerals.

  • Create a memorable phrase using the first letter of each word in a sentence (e.g. "I buy two lattes every day from Starbucks!" makes a strong password as "Ib2ledfS!").

Remember that you need unique passwords for all of your accounts, including email, banking and online stores. To reduce the risk that someone can hack your accounts, be diligent about changing your passwords every few months.

You can test the strength of your passwords using this free assessment tool.

Additional Computer Security

Protecting your passwords is just one way to avoid the devastating damage hackers can do. Here are a few more tips for ensuring your data stays safe and private.

As an entrepreneur, being busy is a normal part of growing a business. But it's important to take steps to protect yourself and your company from harm. Keep reminder dates on your calendar so you remember to update your passwords, anti-virus software and spam filters. And stay up to date on cyber security risks and safety by visiting the Get Cyber Safe website provided by the Government of Canada.

Tags: computers, cyber attacks, cybersecurity, heartbleed bug, password, profiles

Roger Pierce
With Roger’s experience in starting and running 12 small businesses, it’s no wonder that he is Scotiabank’s small business expert. Roger takes what he has learned and shares it with thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide in articles, blogs, videos, and presentations. He’s also co-author of the book, Thriving Solo: How to Grow a Successful Business.
Laura James
April 26, 2014 at 3:24 pm
1password does all the work for me. It's magic! They were the first email I received regarding the HB virus as well.
Marayna Dickinson
May 1, 2014 at 4:08 pm
In addition, three random words stitched together is also a very safe route for creating passwords. For example: oceanpandacamera
This makes it easier for you to remember, as well. No need to remember which letter is capitalized, which letter is a number and what character you decided to go with (and how many).
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