Is Your Password the Weakest Link in Your Virtual Security World?

Are Passwords The Weakest Link?

Computer passwords have been with us for close to sixty years now, but in the real world, they have existed for much, much longer. Written records suggest that they were even used by the Roman empire which, for those of you who have been skipping history lessons, existed under one form or another between 27BC and 1453AD. Passwords have not only survived during all these centuries, but they have also lived on to become an integral part of our everyday lives.

All this suggests that they are a perfect way of protecting information. Yet, if you tell this to a group of security experts, they'll conclude that you have completely lost the plot. Why is that?

The password and its enormous popularity

For centuries, nobody outside military and government organizations even knew what a password is. It was used only by people who needed to prove that they are who they say they are before they can access some extremely sensitive information. Then, the 1990's arrived and suddenly, it wasn't only people working for the army and clandestine agencies that had passwords.

PCs popped up in millions of homes and offices across the globe, and dial-up modems started making funny noises. This meant that you too had to prove to the server on the other end of the cable that you are authorized to access your bank account, read your emails, and watch a cat video. The password, in theory, was the perfect solution to the problem. In addition to being a proven authentication protocol, it required no additional hardware and caused as little inconvenience as possible. That's how it became so ubiquitous.

What went wrong?

Remember the time when you were playing video games instead of doing your homework? Well, while you were obliterating some ugly alien creatures, other kids your age were trying to understand how the bulky box of electronics in front of them worked. Later, they started hacking into different things and pretty soon they learned that you had too many online accounts that were protected by the same simple password.

Time went by, and the cybercrooks realized that they don't even need to "hack" into anything to get your password. They understood that using some social engineering, they can trick you into giving it out yourself. In other words, they found many ways in which the password as an authentication mechanism can be defeated.

Needless to say, these potential problems were there before the then-new generation of cybercriminals discovered them. The problem was, all of a sudden, there were many more attackers and many more targets. The numbers haven't really stopped growing which is why security experts say that the password as an authentication mechanism is riddled with faults. They say one more thing, though.

A single password can't make your security. It can, however, break it.

Despite its flaws, the password is very much here to stay which means that you need to learn how to use it to the best of your advantage. We've talked about what is and what isn't a good password, and we've also discussed how our Cyclonis Password Manager can help you solve the problem.

The thing is, there's no point in having brilliant passwords if, for example, you're going to use an outdated browser with an ancient version of the Flash plugin on a PC running a pirated Windows XP version. In much the same way, all the updates, patches, and well-configured security products will be as good as useless if your accounts are protected with "abc123". And if you've got click-happy index fingers that open all the files and follow all the links in your inbox, the quality of your passwords becomes all but irrelevant.

In that sense, you really can say that your online security is a chain. Every link is as important as the next one, and whether or not your password will be the weakest link is entirely up to you.

August 20, 2018

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