A password is more than a string of numbers and special characters. It’s the first line of defense to prevent data exposure. Still, the number of passwords we use is likely in the tens or, for some, more.
This creates the dilemma of too many passwords and difficulty memorizing them all. It also begs the question of how frequently you should change it. Is it once a month, six months? Yearly?
Can regular password change stop hackers?
Yes, in many cases, updating your password now and then is an effective protective measure. This can be a life-saver for your email, social media, banking accounts, or any account with valuable information.
How long should a password be?
Most experts believe the sweet spot to be at least 12 characters. The shorter it is, the less time it takes for a computer to crack. For instance, a passcode consisting of only lowercase letters under ten characters can take up to 58 minutes to be solved.
But length alone isn’t enough; complexity is necessary. You achieve this by randomly combining alphanumeric characters and symbols. Overall, you want something easy to input and memorize but hard for someone else to guess.
One technique is to use a random generator. However, these rarely produce passcodes that are simple to remember. The next technique is to build your password around a sentence and replace words with odd characters.
Of course, this expression shouldn’t include common words or something that a hacker can learn about you online easily, like:
- Your name
- Birth year
- Sports team
- Spouse or partner name
If you need to share your passwords securely and reliably, then use message encryption. With Duckist.com you can protect your passwords from unnecessary eyes. This easy-to-use tool sends passwords to the recipient and guarantees it will be securely protected from phishing attacks.
What are bad password examples?
Here is a top 10 list of passwords you should avoid (including any variations):
When should you change your passwords?
Most IT experts and professionals worldwide recommend 30, 60, or 90 days. Although changing your password after either of these time periods is not harmful, it can be counter-productive.
The first problem is that, unless you’re using a password manager, one has too many passwords to remember. This can lead to bad habits like writing them down or using the same passcode across multiple accounts.
Also, most people may prefer adding a minor variation to their password instead of adopting a brand-new one.
Rather than thinking about the frequency, it’s the incident determining when you should alter a password.
You’re a victim of a data breach
Receiving word that your data has been compromised is a solid motivation to change. This is prevalent especially when one password is used across more than one platform.
You can find several websites dedicated to advising you of data breaches. Another way is using a password manager that can alert you if your password may have been used elsewhere. Also, if an employer tells you about encountering a data breach, it’s another sign to switch.
After being hacked
The first alarming signal is when you cannot log into your email or social media accounts. You may also notice strange messages in your folders. Also, your contacts may inform you about receiving spam.
It can go beyond your online accounts. If your device reports malware, you should change all passwords at once that you used on it.
You are a victim of fraud or theft
Online fraud can happen in several ways, like credit card scams, lottery scams, and the classic ‘Nigerian Prince.’ In these cases, you should change all your passcodes if you have been lured to offer your details.
This also applies if you become a victim of identity theft or any theft of your particulars.
Sent a password through a public device
Here, we refer to places like internet cafes, libraries, or computers that you don’t own. Where possible, you should never enter your passcode in these cases. Otherwise, you should have it changed immediately afterward.
After sending a password through an unsecured channel
Public Wi-Fi, SMS, email, and websites with HTTP connections are examples of insecure channels where you should not capture your password. Alternatively, you can use Duckist.com. This service will encrypt your password from start to finish using a self-destructing link. Even when the link is accessed afterwards, it will have expired and, hence, not reveal any data.
Want to stop sharing an account
This happens when multiple friends or family members use one password for a subscription or other shared service account created by you. When you decide to stop sharing it, the password should change.
Your password is not strong enough
The first sign is that it’s less than eight characters and consists of common words. Also, it would contain an easy-to-guess dictionary word for a brute force attack or information a hacker can derive from your profile.
Use the same password for multiple accounts
To prevent someone from taking your accounts, assign a different password for each service you use.
Why should you change your passwords often?
Let’s now look at all the benefits of why you should regularly change passwords.
Reduces the possibility of multiple account breaches
This applies when you use one password for various accounts. If one were to get compromised, the hacker wouldn’t gain access to the others, preventing a takeover.
Some people may try to guess your password on different occasions. If you use your password for a long time without changing it, the chances of them eventually solving it increases.
Prevents constant access
If you continue to use an account even after a recognized breach, it can spell trouble. Someone can monitor your activity after their initial access until they get what they desire. By changing the passwords, it prevents them from gaining future entry.
Nullifies the presence of saved passwords
It is possible to lose or change your devices over time. Also, some people may not delete their activity from a phone or computer they’ve sold. This is risky because the new owner could access any saved passwords.
By changing the password, the old passwords would be null and void.
Studies have confirmed that many data breaches happen where passwords haven’t been changed in months or years. People tend to use the simplest and most memorable passcode. However, a weak password is not difficult for some hackers to crack.
Still, changing passwords is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to understand the best security practices around them to prevent exposure.