A Password Guide: Tips to Create a Strong Password

Password box on a webpageIt’s no longer a question of if you will face an online attack, the question is when? Many people are convinced their data is secure as they are using what they consider to be a complex password. They are often mistaken.

There are now freely available password crackers that can tackle passwords up to 55 characters long, passwords that are far more complex than most of us are using. Here are some top tips on how to create a strong password and avoid getting hacked.

  1. Password length – stick to passwords that are at least 8 characters in length. The longer the password, the longer it will take a hacker to guess.
  2. Password complexity – ensure your password contains one lower case letter, one upper case letter, one number and one special character. This will make your password a lot stronger and harder to crack. Avoid using names of family, friends or pets. Don’t use personal information such as date of birth, phone number, street name or house number and do not use consecutive letters, numbers, or keys on the keyboard such as ‘qwerty’.
  3. Use a passphrase – in order to remember your passwords, use a passphrase. For example, use the first letter of each word in a line of your favourite song. ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ could be converted to ’Al0tbs0L!’, a strong password using the four complexity indicators. Don’t simply use number substitutions for letters eg.passw0rd this is far too simple for an advanced hacker.
  4. Use a password manager – many people avoid using complex passwords are they are often hard to remember. Using a reliable password management tool to store passwords is essential. When you create a password, enter it into the password manager which will encrypt it and store it for you. Many of these software programmes are free, easy to use and work on both Windows and Mac.
  5. Create unique passwords – it’s very tempting to use one password for your email accounts, another for your banking, and one for all of your social media accounts. A study by BitDefender shows that 75% of people use the same password for their email as they use for their social media accounts. If this password was discovered and it was also used for their online banking or Paypal account this could result in financial theft.
  6. Change your password for all accounts every six months – the longer your password has remained the same, the more time a hacker has had to crack it. It is recommended to change your passwords often, at least twice a year but the more often the better.
  7. Never write down your passwords (except in a password management tool of course) – this includes both paper and emails. Writing down your strong password is almost as bad as having a weak password and not writing it down at all.

To be extra secure, download Strong Pass now

Authomate Inc Announces Patent For New Authentication System That Will Simplify Security And Bring Authentication To Every Day Life

Authomate Inc is pleased to announce that it has recently been issued US Patent No. 8,763,097 entitled “System, design and process for strong authentication using bidirectional OTP and out-of-band multichannel authentication”. The patent issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office has 25 claims providing a new out-of-band multi-factor authentication system with a very wide array of applications.

This patent is at the heart of Authomate StrongPass which is the easiest to use, user login/password management service. “With a radically different approach to authentication, this solution is a unique blend of strong security and ease of use.  The authentication is performed using the mobile phone network with no need for the user to remember any passwords” said Piyush Bhatnagar, Founder and CEO of Authomate Inc. “Your personal data is safe when you use Authomate. It is strongly encrypted and stored on you smart phone. No one else can access your data, even if you lose your phone”. “The Authomate Servers never sees your personal data”, he added.

Authomate INC, based in New Jersey, is built by a team with decades of security, infrastructure, defense and intelligence experience who have collaborated to create this patented authentication technology. Authomate is building an authentication platform to provide true multi-factor security and convenience to consumers and secure transaction capabilities for companies.

Hack exposes 42m passwords – Worse part, they were kept in open

Cupid Media is an online dating site. Like many other such sites, young and old singles flock to it. Cupid Media operates over 30 niche dating websites based on ethnicity, religion and social preferences. In a recent hack, it exposed over 42 million passwords and other personal details. yeah, it happens. But wait, that is not the whole story. The worst part of the story is that Cupid Media had practically no security in place for protecting the privacy of its users. All User details, including passwords, usernames, and birthdays were kept in plain text. Yes! Plain text ! No encryption, Not even a simple hash. That is a shame.

Read more here.

The sad part is that no amount of creativity on your part in creating a strong password or using any password manager would have helped in this case. It is just a case of stupidity on the part of Cupid Media to have exposed all personal data of its users. It is a lesson for all of us. Whenever you sign-up for new sites, ask a lot of questions and find out what information is really needed by the site and how are they keeping that data. And once you are satisfied that the website is going to keep your data safe, user a reliable password manager (like Strong Pass) to manage your passwords and keep you protected online.

Strong Pass Now Available Worldwide

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Authomate Inc is pleased to announce that Strong Pass for IOS, the easiest to use password management app, is now available worldwide. The app has been redesigned for IOS7 and will let you to manage unlimited logins/passwords. The Android App and additional security tools will follow soon. With Strong Pass, you can login to your favorite sites with just a wave of your smartphone.

With a unique approach to authentication, Strong Pass is a blend of strong security and ease of use. One scan of the webpage, the user will be authenticated instantly. With Strong Pass, there is no need for you to remember any passwords. Your credentials are safe when you use Strong Pass.

Existing password management solutions keep a copy of your password database on each machine you use and synchronize them, thereby making your credentials more vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. Some keep your credentials in the cloud. Strong Pass on the other hand keeps your passwords very safe. Your credentials are not stored in the cloud or on Authomate servers. They are stored on your smart phone under multiple layers of strong encryption. No one else can access your data, even if you lose your phone. Although Authomate Authentication server takes part in the authentication process, your credentials are never visible to anyone else including Authomate.

Authomate Strong Pass uses bank level security to ensure your credentials are safe from prying eyes of hackers and not prone to theft. You can rest assured that your credentials are safe and secure.

To get the app, go to the app store on your iPhone and search using keywords “Strong Pass” or “Authomate”. You can also get the app from itunes app store on your PC/laptop.

appstore 2 Download Strong Pass for iPhone and never worry about passwords again.

Strong Authentication in Consumer World – The Time Is Now

TREMENDOUS GROWTH

Last 20 years have seen a tremendous growth in technology and computing. What used to be experimental technology for the selected few to try and admire, is now mainstream. Most people today have Internet access and have online accounts to multiple service providers. Many have more than one email account and access online bank accounts. Today existing worldwide emails exceed 3.5 billion in number with over 150 Billion email messages sent across each day. This unprecedented growth of the Internet has spurred demand for secure, convenient, and private access to the Internet, both for consumers as well as corporate entities.  The ubiquitous access to online resources has also led to identity theft and billions of dollars of loss to consumers and corporations.

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According to Symantec, over 70% of these emails are spam and according to Dr Dobbs, about 500 million of these emails per day are phishing attempts. Last year alone there were 11.1 million Americans who were victims of identity theft leading to more than $54 billion dollar in losses, which was an increase of 34% from the previous year. A large part of this increase is due to online fraud. Besides the monetary loss, consumers lose confidence and are less likely to conduct online transactions.

There is an increasing threat of ID theft and various forms of cyber attacks, which lead to loss of billions of dollars and loss in consumer confidence. Businesses are losing money due to fraud.

SIMPLE PASSWORDS NOT SAFE ANYMORE

Password based authentication is used to verify user identity prior to granting access to specific computer, network, or Internet services and has been the primary means of authentication mechanism since the beginning of the internet. Passwords are very convenient to use, but in today’s world they give a false sense of security and they no longer provide adequate protection from hackers. Passwords can be compromised. Since most people pick passwords that are easy to remember, they are easy to guess as well. Even if the user has picked a complex enough password, programs like keystroke loggers, stealthily installed on user machines by Hackers have been used to steal/break passwords. In addition, users often write passwords down in a notebook or save them into files on their computers on in the cloud, making them vulnerable. Many users also have a tendency to use the same password for as many accounts as possible so that they don’t have to remember many passwords. In such cases, if one account is hacked/breached, all accounts become vulnerable.

Off late a number of password management solutions have come up. A password manager is software that helps users manage their user ids and passwords for various accounts. Most password managers though are glorified form fillers. They manage your accounts in separate application that works with browsers and fills up the login/password automatically or on demand. Portability of the accounts can be an issue as well. Some work with cloud technology and store password in the cloud, which exposes it to potential security breaches as well. Although the password managers make password management easier, they still do not enhance the security of online accounts.

STRONG AUTHENTICATION

Multi-factor authentication requires the use of two ore more of the following three authentication factors:

  • Something you know (examples: password, PIN, pattern, gesture)
  • Something you have (examples: smart card, mobile phone)
  • Something you are (examples: biometric characteristics such as fingerprint, voice match, face match).

To mitigate the risk of ever increasing thefts and breaches, corporate world has adopted strong authentication and almost all enterprises use some form of multi-factor authentication. These mechanisms are inherently more secure but are prone to high Total Cost of Ownership and are limited to enterprises in use.

Despite many attempts to bring strong authentication to mass market, it has failed to capture the imagination of the users. Companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook have introduced soft tokens and SMS based OTP delivery mechanisms, but these techniques are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle and man-in-the-browser attacks as well have more complex usage models thereby slowing down the adoption rate. Due to a more complex use model, for now, the use of MFA is restricted to password resets and periodic verification only.

The biggest stumbling block for mass adoption of multi factor authentication in consumer space is the ease of use and most sites today continue to rely on simple password based authentication.

CONCLUSION

For any authentication solution to be acceptable by the masses it must be easy to use as well as easy to deploy, how so ever strong and secure it may be.  In addition the solution should be flexible enough to work with multiple online service in a seamless manner without a forklift upgrade or major rework on each of the online services. If any solution increases the complexity of the user experience; it will not get a wide enough adoption for it to be economically viable.

With increasing complexity, maturity and sophistication of attack tools and methods available to the hacker, as well as growing adoption of cloud services necessitate the need for use of strong authentication as the mechanism for user authentication in consumer space.  The time is now.

This article appeared in print and online versions of September 2013 issue of Silicon India