Stay Safe On­line

THIS IS­SUE’S EX­PERT: Dar­ren Guc­cione, CEO of Keeper Se­cu­rity ( keep­er­se­cu­ Your ques­tions an­swered by se­cu­rity spe­cial­ists

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Se­cu­rity ad­vice for PC and mo­bile

QIs us­ing a mix of let­ters and num­bers still the best way to cre­ate a strong pass­word? Ellen Bartlett, Twit­ter

AA decade ago, a five- or six­char­ac­ter pass­word was enough to beat most hack­ing pro­grams, but com­put­ers are much faster now and a six-char­ac­ter pass­word can be guessed by a brute-force at­tack. Your pass­words should there­fore con­tain at least 12 char­ac­ters.

Sub­sti­tut­ing num­bers for let­ters used to be ef­fec­tive but the crim­i­nals’ soft­ware is on to that trick and ‘ Spr1ngst33n’ doesn’t sur­vive a de­ter­mined at­tack any more. Ad­di­tion­ally, ‘ 1qaz2wsx’ may seem like a pretty tough pass­word to guess un­til you look at your key­board and no­tice the pat­tern. A ran­dom se­ries of let­ters and num­bers must be truly ran­dom to have a chance.

It may seem like a good idea to store your pass­words in plain text in a spread­sheet or mail them to your­self, but this leaves them vul­ner­a­ble to ran­somware, the fastest-grow­ing cat­e­gory of mal­ware, where crim­i­nals hold your data hostage un­til you pay them a ransom. While they wait for you to pay, they can scour your hard drive look­ing for any­thing that re­sem­bles a pass­word list. Once they find it, the ransom pay­ment is the least of your prob­lems.

You may have the strong­est pass­word in the world, but if you share it with some­one who stores it in an email ac­count pro­tected by ‘qw­erty’, it won’t make a bit of dif­fer­ence. Your pass­words are for your eyes only.

Your best bet is to use a pass­word man­ager pro­tected by strong en­cryp­tion. The best ones gen­er­ate se­cure pass­words for you and give you to­tal pro­tec­tion with two-fac­tor authen­ti­ca­tion.

•See page 44 for our com­par­i­son of pass­word man­agers

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