Nila Sweeney

For all the benefits and streamlined processes brought by the internet, there was bound to be the odd inconvenience — and for many Australians, trying to remember passwords is an ongoing burden.

 

However, there is no room for slacking off and using the same passwords for say, both your PayPal and Facebook accounts.

 

Experts warn that we’re no longer up against the lone basement hacker. Highly organised cyber-crime syndicates are on the rise, and online crime is now more lucrative than the drug industry. Your Money Magazine investigates how to keep your hard earned dollars safe.

 

Lloyd Borrett, security evangelist at internet company AVG Security, said cyber criminals know exactly how to break into online accounts and use fully automated programs to gain access.

 

Borrett says they know exactly what to look for: “The first things the bad guys are going to do is use the standard password cracking lists that have come from the research of the popular ones that people use [such as ‘12345678’, ‘qwerty’, ‘password’ and dictionary words]

 

“Once they've exhausted those possibilities, then they've got to start mix and matching it up, and that's when they start adding in a mix of upper and lower case letters, adding in numbers, adding in non-alphanumeric characters, like slashes and your minuses and your pluses, et cetera”.

 

Borrett said that despite the sophisticated programs used by criminals, being aware of the threat is the first step, followed by ensuring you are doing the right things to protect your online security.

 

“We've got a good chance if we're conscious about it and not much chance if we're not,” the security expert said.

 

Tips for creating a secure password

 

Indeed most banks now offer password strength indicators, and provide a visible indication with traffic light colours of how secure you’ve made your password.

 

The Commonwealth bank says: 

  • Passwords should be at least 8 to 16 characters long
  • Use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. An example of a secure password is: au09nsw1%#$
  • Avoid using words from a dictionary (including foreign words), as hackers use dictionary tools to help them
  • Choose a password that is not easy for anyone to guess, e.g. your name, part of your address
  • Memorise your password
  • Change your password every month
  • Don’t reuse old passwords
  • Don’t share your password with anyone
  • Never email your password to anyone including yourself

The Australian computer emergency response team (AusCERT) says while having alonger password is better, it is important to note that many machines artificially restrict the length of the password usually by silently shortening what you enter to their maximum length. Check out their table below.. And get cracking!

 

Length
Number of Passwords
Cracking Time
1
62
Try this by hand
2
3844
Almost no time
3
238328
Less than one second
4
14776336
Two seconds
5
916132832
Two and a half minutes
6
56800235584
Two and a half hours
7
3521614606208
One week
8
218340105584896
One year
9
13537086546263552
Seventy years
10
839299365868340224
Forty centuries
11
52036560683837093888
A quarter of a million years
12
3226266762397899821056
Sixteen million years

 

 

Click here for more information on password security.

 

Related story: How safe is your smartphone?

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