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Saying "Open Sesame” Might Be All it Takes to Crack Your Password

Updated: Feb 25


Strong and weak easy Password. Note pad and laptop
Saying "Open Sesame” Might Be All it Takes to Crack Your Password

Do you remember a game show called Password? Two teams of two — one celebrity on each team to make the whole thing even more attractive — competed to win by trying to guess a secret password, using only one-word clues.


And remember using the phrase, "Open Sesame!" (initially used in Ali Baba's and the Forty Thieves' classic tale to open a magical cave) anytime we wished something would open for us automatically?


Unfortunately, in this day and age, as we are all increasingly active online, someone guessing your password is not entertaining and all too common. Passwords have been mandatory in this digital era since their debut by Fernando Corbató, the godfather of the modern computer password, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1960. (Even long before that, the Roman guards apparently used passwords to recognize adversaries from allies). Security back in the 60s wasn't as big an issue as it started to become in the 80s when hacking began to appear as we understand it today. As we increasingly fill our online profiles with massive amounts of personal information, we become a juicy target for cybercriminals.


A recent infographic posted on Reddit showed a chart illustrating how much time it could take a hacker to figure out your password. A hacker could crack a 4-11 letters-only password instantly. The chart showcases just how long it would take a hacker to figure out your password depending on its length and how many unique symbols, upper and lowercase letters, and numbers you include. A good wake-up call.

Passwords should be the iron-clad gate at the entrance to the castle. So, how secure are your passwords? How can you make them more secure?

Here are some security tips:

It's complicated! Your password should be.


As simple as this seems, it's good to reiterate that the longer your password is, the better. Not only that, try adding upper and lowercase characters, spaces, punctuation, and special symbols to make your password less predictable. Brevity is not your friend here. Also, use brackets! Sprinkle these throughout your password { } [ ] ( ) Not many people do, and it makes it much harder for a hacker to figure it out.

How about using a word that Merriam-Webster surely wouldn't know?


One way criminals try to hack in is with a brute force attack. This attack involves a hacker guessing your password based on relevant clues. Even more sophisticated attempts involve using bots to feed massive quantities of passwords into the system to try and guess the correct one. Get creative in coming up with a unique combination of made-up words, punctuation, and symbols to make it harder for them to breach your sensitive data. And while we are talking about made-up words, don't let your status as the 6th-grade spelling bee champ stop you from using misspelled words here to create more complex password combinations. This also can boost your security as hackers often search for correctly spelled passwords.



Gone phishing…


Oh wow, Amazon just emailed me saying that I need to update my account info. Hmmmm…. It's good to have a healthy sense of skepticism these days — don't be duped into clicking on a link from what seems like a legitimate, well-known source (check the source directly if you're concerned). Hackers use this tactic as an attempt to steal your information by getting you to click on a link that won't take you that great deal on Amazon but will bring a world of pain down on your life. Delete and block.

Change is good….


Maybe it's time to change your password management system? Changing your passwords regularly is necessary to stay one step ahead of hackers (and especially necessary if you either have been hacked or have shared your password with someone). The tricky thing is keeping track of your passwords if you do change them frequently.

Some tips from 1Password:

Get a password manager with a random password generator and spin that wheel for a unique password combination – at least 20 characters with a jumble of numbers, symbols, uppercase, and lowercase letters. And no adding give away information like your pet's name or your grandma's birthday, of course.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) Although not widely available yet, if it is, be sure to access this to add another layer of protection. This feature will be a one-two punch to hackers as it requires not just typing in your password but also typing in an authentication code afterward as well.

Get your updates Turn on automatic updates on all your devices to stay ahead of any security vulnerabilities in your apps.


Say goodbye, old accounts

It's a good time to clean house and seek out those old accounts you don't use anymore that still have all your account information. Delete delete delete after you've swept all your personal details out or update with a new password that is unique to that account.

And of course:

Resist using the same password across all of your accounts. Yes, we are all mired in data. Trying to remember several different passwords is cumbersome but know that using the same password across accounts makes you more vulnerable to being attacked. In 2016, Mark Zuckerberg's LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts were hacked because even he was using the same password for all these platforms. The folks behind World Password Day, an initiative focused on improving password strength, offer that all your accounts should have their own unique password to avoid this. According to Online Security Survey by Google in February 2019, 52% of respondents stated that they reuse the same password for multiple accounts. 13% of survey-takers admitted that they use the same password for ALL their accounts.

Bill Gates predicted the decline of the password way back in 2004. But as flawed as passwords can be, and even with inroads made in biometrics (such as a fingerprint, iris scan, or facial pattern authentication), passwords are here to stay. Regular use of best password security practices will give you a chance to stay one step ahead of and out of hackers' crosshairs and keep you and your personal information safe.


As Chris Pirillowisely said, "Passwords are like underwear: don't let people see it, change it very often, and you shouldn't share it with strangers." Indeed.


Business Management International (BMI) is focused on helping business technology companies compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and Acumatica to solve real-world business productivity problems. www.bmiusa.com.


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