The administration of usernames and passwords is time consuming business, although there is some good news for system administrators. Both Yahoo and Google have now produced alternatives. Google’s Authenticator and the On-Demand passwords from Yahoo look like they could well be viable solutions, but at the present moment in time, they are not universal. It is probable in the short to medium term that passwords will be required as the last line of defense against cyberattacks. It is essential that the last line holds strong, so two-step verification must be implemented.

Since you are going to have to carry on using passwords for the immediate future, it is a good idea to make some changes that will make administration tasks a lot easier, more straightforward and less time-consuming. Furthermore, we recommend making some changes to ensure your last line of defense is particularly strong. It may be tested.

Improve the strength of your passwords

You can use a Single Sign On (SSO) session to gain access to everything. Many people do. Even cybercriminals. SSO makes life easier because you can access everything you need to with the one password. Unfortunately, a hacker or cyber-criminal only needs to compromise one password in order to gain access to everything as well.

If you decide to use an SSO approach, you had better be sure your password is secure. We advise you to use different passwords for each system and to make sure that each of those is secure. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Regardless of whether you opt for multiple passwords or go for the SSO approach, you need to make it as hard as possible for your password to be guessed. This applies to all network users not just IT staff.

Password controls should be used: Minimum character limits should be implemented, along with other controls to ensure only strong passwords are created.

Furthermore, you should help employees create stronger passwords. Research conducted by Carnegie Mellon University’s CUPS (CyLab Usable Privacy and Security) Laboratory has shown that the addition of numbers to passwords can help improve security, but they determined it is far easier to guess passwords when these are added to the end of a password. This is where many people add them. They use their normal password with the characters and numbers added to the end. It is easy to remember that way, it is accepted by the password controls.

Even when passwords do not contain numbers or symbols they can be more secure than short passwords containing numbers and symbols. “AGoodExampleOfASecurePassword” is easy to remember and doesn’t need to be written down. Write it down and there is a chance it will be found. It is actually much better than using “E&”F*$G” for example. That would be very hard to remember, especially if you have more than one password like that to commit to memory and you need to change it every month. You would need to write it down, which is a major risk.

Additionally, a long password is more secure than using any 6-digit code. That said, make sure at least one capital letter is used (preferably more) and a number and a symbol, and that they are not just added to the end.

Avoid using structural passwords

It is tempting to keep using structural passwords. Many companies use a password such as the individual’s initial and the first four digits of their surname plus four digits at the end. The problem is that if the structure is determined, it makes it easier to work out the passwords for the entire organization, including individuals with full system privileges. If they are simply too practical to give up, only use them for individuals with low-level privileges.

Enforce password changes regularly

The longer a password is used; the more opportunities an attacker has to crack it. If you enforce a change every month or two, this is much more secure than keeping the same password for a year. Since new passwords are difficult to remember, why not take advantage of one of the many password managers that exist, such as Dashlane or LastPass. They are also good at helping with password creation, especially for creating longer passwords (and remembering highly complex ones). For greater security use an offline password generator.

It is also worthwhile checking the strength of your password. Take advantage of the Password Assistant if you use a Mac. CUPS found that password strength meters are effective at ensuring secure passwords are created.

Be careful about your use of social media

Could your password be guessed by anyone with access to your Facebook account? Have you used your pet’s name and published that name on Facebook? Your password strength meter will not know if you have used your dog’s name as your password with an exclamation mark at the end. It will not know what you have published via social media.

Assume your social media accounts may be compromised, and never choose a password using your name, a pet’s name, house name, date of birth, or any other information that is accessible through your social media accounts.

Make your passwords ultra-secure and do your bit to protect your organization

If you use the above controls to ensure your passwords are secure, your organization will be better protected. If a security breach occurs, make sure that it is not your account that a hacker uses to gain access to your system.