The first barrier standing between a hacker and your information is your password. It’s the most important defense and often the most overlooked by users. Nearly everything you do online requires a password.

This leads to users becoming sloppy and reusing the same passwords for multiple websites, using passwords which are easy to guess or simple words which can be quickly gained by a Brute-Force attack.
But how much does reusing passwords or having weak passwords matter? Especially as the places that matter most to you, such as you bank, often have their own, very strong security. The answer is: extremely.

This is where most people go wrong

Many people still have access to that email account they made when they were in school, that old ‘snoopyisadevil@hotmail’ account that they no longer use for important things.
If someone were to access this, it probably doesn’t matter right? Wrong. If it’s still in use, even for the unimportant websites you access or as your backup email address it’s still important.

Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don’t let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months.
Clifford Stoll

What makes a weak password? Those that use any word in the dictionary, are dangerously short, or are those without a mixture of cases or numbers. These types of passwords can be guessed by a hacker’s computer in a matter of minutes.
Once the hacker has access they can see what websites you are using, and from here all a hacker needs to do is press the ‘forgot password’ link on any of those websites, which will send a new password to the inbox they have now gained access to.
If the email address acts as a backup to any of your other, more important email addresses the same logic can be used. Before you know it, by hacking into a seemingly unimportant email address they can gain access to your most sensitive data and even your bank account details.
The same goes for using the same password for multiple sites. Once you have one, you can gain access to everything.
So what are the tips for staying safe online? Firstly, it’s not to forget that all passwords are important. Hackers only need a gateway and once they get started it’s very hard to stop them.

Top 8 most hackable passwords in 2016

1. 123456
2. password
3. 12345678
4. qwerty
5. 12345
6. 123456789
7. football
8. 1234

These will be the first things a hacker will guess without even needing to perform a Brute-force attack and should therefore be completely avoided.

Passing the password security test

By now, most people are aware that making passwords stronger involves making them longer, using both cases along with numbers and symbols. However, simply capitalising the first letter of your password and adding a ‘1’ on the end is not enough anymore. To keep yourself safe online you should stay away from any word in the dictionary, even if you have added symbols and cases into it.
For the business it is particularly important that their employees have strong and unique passwords, not just when they log into the corporate network but their personal email as well, following the same logic as above. Once a hacker manages to open a window – even a small window – they will be able to chip away until they gain full access.
There are a few main things IT can do to ensure their employees choose strong passwords. Firstly, having employees reset their password periodically will ensure they are not using the same password for multiple websites and help prevent hacking. Ideally you want to make sure the password for their laptop, phone and email each gets reset every month. There should also be a minimum length to passwords (no shorter than eight characters) and  numbers and symbols should be required.
There is also an education piece which needs to happen. Most people will be completely unaware how important every password they use is.
A concerted effort needs to be made to raise awareness of how important passwords are and what makes a strong password. In addition to this IT may want to consider employing the use of, or recommending the use of password generators. Password managers like LastPass can be effective tools for implementing this.
A password manager will store all of your passwords and autofill forms eliminating the need to memorize passwords and enabling your workforce to use stronger passwords with ease. 
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