Strong passwords are the key to your digital life: Norton

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A recent Norton cyber security insights report pointed out how online crimes have affected the life of consumers.

A recent Norton report revealed that Indian consumers lost an average of 29.6 hours over the past year dealing with the fallout from online crime.

In the wake of digitisation and increased online presence, users should be careful about securing their online data and employ strong passwords. Over the past couple of years, online crimes and cyber attacks have escalated enormously.

A recent Norton cyber security insights report pointed out how online crimes have affected the life of consumers, and the subsequent problems in dealing with it.  The report revealed that Indian consumers lost an average of 29.6 hours over the past year dealing with the fallout from online crime, and nearly INR 16,558 on an average per person.

Ritesh Chopra, Country Manger, Norton by Symantec, has shared some key insights and trends that will help users rectify their password issues, and protect their virtual presence. Here is what he had to say:

Digital keys

Passwords are the digital keys to our networks of friends, our colleagues, and even our banking and payment services. We want to keep our passwords private to protect our personal lives, and that includes our financial information.

While some cyber-criminals may want to hack into our social networking or email accounts, most want the financial gain that hacking bank accounts can bring.

The two most important passwords are those for your email and social network accounts. If someone gains access to your email account, they could use the "forgot your password?" link on other websites you use, like online shopping or banking sites.

If a hacker gets into your social network, they have the ability to scam your friends by sending out links to dangerous websites or posting fraudulent messages asking for money.

There are many ways that hackers can crack your password outside of phishing attempts and spyware. One method is by attempting to log on to your account and guessing your password based off of personal information gained from your security questions.

This is why it is extremely important not to include any personal information in your passwords. 

Another way that hackers can attempt to gain access to your password is via a password cracker. A password cracker uses brute force by using multiple combinations of characters repeatedly until it gains access to the account.

The shorter and less convoluted your password is, the quicker it can be for the program to come up with the correct combination of characters.

Password habits of Indians

The Norton Cyber Security Insights Report revealed that among Indians, password usage itself is yet to take dominance with only 41 per cent of users preferring to “always” use a secure password on their smartphones, desktops and other accounts.

In fact, over one in two do not even have a password on their smartphone or desktop computer at all. Things were no different when it came to online accounts, with most Indians continuing to take the blatant risk of sharing passwords, and nearly one in three admitting to sharing the passwords of not just their email and social media, but also their bank accounts!

In fact the biggest defaulters in this case were the overly confident, digital-native Millennials population of the country born in the digital-era. 31 per cent of the Millennials admit to sharing passwords and other risky online behaviour.

Ironically this behaviour does not seem to stem from a lack of awareness as 8 in 10 Indians agree it’s riskier to share email password with friend than their car for a day.

This clearly shows that while most of us are aware of the need for a secure password, we are throwing caution to the wind when it comes to understanding that a good password is all that may stand between us, and a cyber criminal.

Resolve to Do

  • Do use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) whenever possible. 2FA adds another layer of security to any account you may be logging into. When using 2FA, you can choose two of three types of identification to provide:

  • A password or pin number.

  • A tangible item such as the last 4 digits of a credit card in your possession or a mobile device that a code can be sent to.

  • A part of you such as a fingerprint or voiceprint.

  • Do use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers.

  • Do make sure your user passwords are at least eight characters long. The more characters and symbols your passwords contain, the more difficult they are to guess.

  • Do use abbreviated phrases for passwords. You can choose a phrase such as "I want to go to England." You can convert this phrase to an abbreviation by using the first letters of each word and changing the word "to" to a number "2." This will result in the following basic password phrase: iw2g2e. Make it even more complex by adding punctuation, spaces or symbols: %iw2g2e!@

  • Do change your passwords regularly and log out of websites and devices when you are finished using them.

Resolve not to

  • Don't use commonly used passwords such as 123456, the word "password," “qwerty”, “111111”, or a word like, “monkey”.

  • Don't use a solitary word in any language. Hackers have dictionary-based systems to crack these types of passwords. If you insist on using a word, misspell it as much as possible, or insert numbers for letters. For example, if you want to use the phrase “I love chocolate” you can change it to @1L0v3CH0c0L4t3!

  • Don't use a derivative of your name, the name of a family member or the name of a pet. In addition to names, do not use phone numbers, addresses, birthdays or Social Security numbers.

  • Don’t use the same password across multiple websites. If remembering multiple passwords is an issue, you can use a password manager such as Norton Identity Safe to securely store your passwords.

  • Don't write your passwords down, share them with anyone or let anyone see you log into devices or websites.

  • Don't answer "yes" when prompted to save your password to a particular computer's browser.

Instead, rely on a strong password committed to memory or stored in a dependable password management program. Norton Security stores your passwords securely and fills them in online in encrypted form.

You can also simplify this process by using the Norton Identity Safe Password Generator. It will allow you to customize your password by length, and gives you the choice of including letters, numbers, mixed case and punctuation.