The risks and consequences of weak passwords.

A password is a string of characters used to verify the identity of a user during the authentication process. Passwords are typically used in tandem with a username, vary in length, and can contain letters, numbers, and special characters. They’re designed to be known only to the user. We recognize that passwords are important and are the first line of defense against unauthorized access to online accounts, devices, and files.  So, there is a need for a strong password for one to be safe and and protect data and information from bad actors and malicious software. Using a weak password is much like leaving the door open to your car or house’s just not safe, meaning it requires a strong password to avoid hackers who come with negative intentions like phishing attacks aiming at stealing or damaging sensitive data by deceiving people into revealing personal information like credit and card numbers.

According to Earth Web, 30% of users have experienced a data breach due to weak passwords, and an estimated 81% of data breaches are because of poor or weak password security.  This is because people are reluctant to create strong passwords on their devices, thinking that creating a strong password, remembering it, and entering it each time you access a device or account is not enjoyable and is time-wasting. For this very reason, they end up being victims of password hackers who breach their information and expose sensitive data like financial details and intellectual property. This leads to loss of information confidentiality and integrity, which puts someone’s life and property at risk of theft.

What can be done?

Security measures such as strong passwords are crucial to prevent unauthorized access to computers, mobile devices, and online accounts.  Avoid the use of the same password for two or more devices or online accounts. This is because as soon as hackers break into one computer system or cloud platform, they will try to use variations of the usernames and passwords they have gained from their successful breach to take control of accounts across other devices or online platforms.

Additionally, passwords need to be handled carefully. Users with multiple devices or online accounts should not use the same passwords for more than one device or online account, as hackers can easily compromise those accounts after a major platform breach using these methods. Passwords must be long and complex, contain at least eight characters, and have a combination of characters such as commas, percentage signs, and parentheses, known as special characters, as well as upper-case and lower-case letters and numbers because long and complex passwords require more effort and time for a hacker to guess.

Furthermore, avoid reusing and recycling passwords; do not use personal information, such as birthdays or initials; do not use repeated letter strings, never text or email your passwords, establish a password audit routine, and use a password manager to store and keep your passwords, mostly if you have more than one password. 

In conclusion, a key point about password security is that users should know how to reduce the likelihood that hackers will crack their passwords and gain access to their devices. It is also important to use a unique password everywhere, and remember them all (or use a password manager to avoid writing down your password). Protect your personal and official information, secure mobile devices, safeguard the information sharing cycle, and prevent break-ins and loss of valuable emails, employee information, images, documents, and financial records.

Written by:
Babirye Roseline, Program Assistant Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy

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