With half of the Earth currently using the internet – which itself has existed since the 90s – it is safe to say that most people are aware of passwords. We all know them through and through, and all of us who operate a computer of some sort use them on a daily basis. Passwords and codes are probably the oldest authentication or access method for interaction with a computer system. They are also the simplest, single-layer method of authentication which is still in use today.
It is crucial that computer users, and users of smart devices, understand passwords in-depth. Something that is unavoidable in good cybersecurity practice is password hygiene, but this is also something that is often approached with a laissez-faire, careless attitude by the general public. Not being careful enough with passwords, can lead to a host of problems including lost data at the very least. Keep your account secure by using unique passwords and you will avoid a lot of cyber-risks.
This sentence could not be more true, especially as ‘cybersec’ has rapidly become a global area of interest and concern. Knowing how to set a proper password is crucial to protect your safety and the safety of the data on your devices.
Passwords: A Brief History
Passwords (particularly codes) have been around a long, long time before computers ever came to be e.g from before the Roman Empire to the Enigma machines of this century. But what about computer passwords? Computer passwords were born when the computer itself was born, as a set of codes that would protect access into a computer system in an unauthorized way.
When computers came about in their most primitive form, somewhere in the 1960s – decades before the internet went public – passwords were used to access basic early research platforms and very basic files. As the 70s came along, cryptography came into play and something called ‘hashing’ was created. This allowed for passwords to be ‘scrambled’ for the first time, avoiding storage of the password itself in a database.
Instead, passwords could not be read or accessed directly because of the hashing process (where conversion takes place that converts the password into multiple random characters.) Fast-forwarding to the 90s and 2000s, the internet is now public and there are infinitely more users sharing more sensitive data than ever before. There is an infinitely larger amount of passwords being used.
This is also why password security today is at risk of breaches e.g where cybercriminals can run a program that can guess a password via a database filled with millions of templates. Not only is this about direct data breaches, but the fact that people don’t use long enough or complex enough passwords. Also, many people use the same password across multiple accounts. So, human error is a big factor that creates cyber-risks. According to official statistics found online, many people still use the term ‘password’ or ‘123456’ as their passwords.
What Is A Password Manager And Why Should You Use One?
A dedicated password manager is an important, and practical solution to improved online safety. It is an essential (cybersecurity) tool for all to use, overall. A password manager can help with;
- When you are forgetful of your passwords
- Storing your passwords in a separate place and encrypting that zone itself
- Providing a place to store your passwords that is just as safe as storing them on paper
- Managing your passwords in a practical way, such as updating them
- Generating strong passwords for you, without you having to do it
- Entering passwords for you when a website or service requires you to do so
- Sometimes having the ability to store credit card numbers and notes too
- Protecting against phishing attacks
- Do all of the above on all of your devices
So how exactly does one properly find and install a good password manager? Well, by following these initial steps first;
- Finding a premium, well-reviewed password manager via any search engine
- Once installed, keeping the master password safe and sound (this is the only password you need to worry about)
A good password manager should be able to satisfy all of the above criteria in the list, especially be available for multiple platforms (namely for your tablet, smartphone and laptop.) A good password manager should also optimally offer you high-quality encryption (such as AES) as well as offer you multi-factor authentication options. Now, there are both cloud-based password manager options as well as standalone options.
For the security-conscious crowd, it is usually a better idea to be able to keep your passwords and password manager program locally on your computer, instead of on a cloud. Cloud-based storage exists on a web server, which means that it can potentially be affected by a data breach. When you store something locally, it is much more difficult for an attacker to breach your device’s internal disk than a cloud server.
In conclusion, using premium well-reviewed standalone password managers is a very good idea and one that will reduce human error, increase safety, as well as increase practicality, efficiency, and productivity.
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