Mastering password security: protecting your digital identity

In an increasingly digitised world, safeguarding our online presence is essential. As cyber threats loom ever more significant, robust password protection becomes necessary. Delve into the realm of cybersecurity with insights from experts, as we explore the pivotal role of password managers in fortifying our digital safety. 

Date 2024-02-09 Author Dutch Safer Internet Centre Section awareness Topic data privacy, media literacy/education Audience children and young people, parents and carers, research, policy and decision makers, teachers, educators and professionals
4 pictures of passwords experts

Want to share your password securely? Use a password manager

Zawadi Done, incident responder at Hunt & Hackett.

You may not always think about it, but we protect ourselves in various ways daily against risks. For instance, damage from extreme weather, fire, or burglary. (Almost) all of us have a smoke detector or a fire extinguisher. But do you also know the means to protect yourself against cybercrime? 

Zawadi Done does know. As an incident responder at Hunt & Hackett, he supports companies that have become victims of ransomware or hacking attacks. He helps to resolve the situation and advises on how a company can better secure itself against the next cyber threat. ‘You can think of me as a digital firefighter,’ says Zawadi.  

Regarding cybersecurity, strong passwords, a password manager, and two-factor authentication are the most important tools to protect our accounts. Zawadi says, ‘Strong passwords are safer and therefore harder to crack. A password manager can create and remember a strong password for each account.’ You add an extra layer of security When you enable two-factor authentication for every account. ‘Suppose you fall for a phishing attack − not uncommon at all − and your password is leaked, an attacker still can't access your account.’  

Don't share your passwords − not even with your best friend 

Zawadi emphasises that a criminal attack is not the only way your password can be leaked. It can also happen if you are careless with it. ‘It's not a good idea to share your passwords with others, not even your partner or best friend. Keep them secret and to yourself.’ If there's no other option, use a password manager to share passwords securely. 

You'll find a simple explanation on the website about secure login with strong passwords and using a password manager. 

The original source can be found on the Veiliginternetten.nl website

 

Password manager: a safe for all your passwords

Christian Boertje, cybersecurity advisor at BOEM Consultants  

The security of your devices and accounts combines technology and your behaviour. Even if your computer or phone has the latest updates, if you click on the wrong link or use a weak password, things can still go wrong. Christian Boertje works as an advisor at BOEM Consultants. He helps companies in vital sectors increase awareness of online security among their employees. His golden tip? ‘Enable two-factor authentication and use a password manager. Logging in becomes a lot safer that way.’ 

‘When you consider how much time we spend online, it's quite surprising how little attention we pay to our online security,’ Christian begins. ‘Many people spend almost eight hours a day on a computer for work alone. Add to that the time you spend on various apps on your mobile phone in your free time.’  

He argues that weak passwords are often the primary cause of problems in online security. ‘One of the first things we need to master is the use of strong passwords.’ So, random, at least 12 characters long, a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and a different password for each account. ‘However, strong passwords are not easy to remember, which is why many people don't use them.’ 

Christian's golden tip 

His golden tip? A password manager. ‘This is an app or programme that allows you to manage all your passwords. It is like a safe, but one that not only stores your passwords but also generates strong passwords for a double win or a triple win. ‘An additional benefit is that you only need to remember one password, the one for your password manager.’ 

People are often apprehensive about storing all their passwords in a password manager. It is new and may seem complicated. ‘Password managers come in various shapes and sizes. Paid and free, it is accessible everywhere on your computer, in the cloud or offline. Do not be discouraged, but focus on a password manager that suits you.’ 

You can find a simple explanation of secure login with strong passwords and the use of a password manager on our website

The original source can be found on Veiliginternetten.nl  website.  

 

Don't be predictable! Use a completely random password

Dirk-Jan Bartels, ethical hacker at Resillion

Criminal hackers employ the same techniques to crack your password and gain access, whether it's your work or personal accounts. Once they are in, the consequences can be significant. Hackers can steal your money and personal information, take over your social media accounts, or make purchases in your favourite online store. As an ethical hacker at Resillion, Dirk-Jan Bartels delves into the methods and mindset of criminal hackers daily. With that knowledge, he helps businesses protect themselves against potential cyberattacks. 

Two successful methods 

Dirk-Jan says, ‘Hackers often use just two methods for cracking passwords. The first is to select one account and try passwords endlessly until they gain access.’ But the one they have the most success with is the second method. It's much more effective. A hacker chooses a password and runs it through many people's accounts using a tool. ‘There's a good chance that one of them uses the password, and then the hacker gains access.’ 

People are predictable 

You might wonder how a hacker produces all those passwords. Dirk-Jan's answer is simple: ‘People are predictable. We often use familiar information for creating passwords, such as a street name, a month in the year, or a birthdate, for example. Depending on the account a hacker wants to crack, they create a list of passwords that fit the user. Unfortunately, simple passwords like 'Welcome123!' or 'Hello2023' are still widely used. When a hacker tries those on thousands of accounts, the chances are high that they will succeed somewhere.’ 

What can you do to reduce the chance of a hacker cracking your password? 

To outsmart hackers, it is recommended to use strong passwords. Dirk-Jan provides three tips: 

  • The best password is entirely random 
    ‘Make sure it is not personally identifiable to you. So, do not use your street name or something related to your birthdate.’ 
  • The longer the password, the stronger it is 
    ‘Use at least 12 characters, a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.’ 
  • Use a different password for each account 
    ‘If a hacker guesses the password for one account, they are likely to try other accounts of yours. When you use a unique password for each account, you minimize the risk of getting hacked. A password manager can help you store all your passwords easily and securely.’ 

Super tip 

To apply all these tips at once, use a password manager. A password manager generates unique and random passwords and securely stores them in one central place. 

You can find a simple explanation of secure login with strong passwords and the use of a password manager on our website

The original source can be found on Veiliginternetten.nl  website

 

Double-lock your digital front door! 

Digital community police officer Kevin van Bree

There is a high chance that you lock the front door of your house when you leave, even with two locks, right? You do it to ensure nobody can walk in and access your belongings. It is just as important to do the same for your digital possessions, like your apps and devices. Online intruders (hackers) are just as active as ‘offline.’ As a digital community police officer, Kevin van Bree dedicates his daily work to the online security of the residents in his community. 

‘Hacking isn't as easy as breaking into a house; it requires certain technical knowledge,’ Kevin says. Unfortunately, it is becoming more accessible. On the internet, there is an increase in parties offering tools that make hacking simpler. 

Like burglars at home, hackers inside your computer can cause chaos or take personal information, such as your login credentials. They can take control of your internet banking app and withdraw money from your account. They can also take over your WhatsApp account and request money from your friends and family, for example. You certainly want to prevent this. 

That is why it is also important to lock your digital front door securely. By enabling two-factor authentication for all your apps and devices, you better protect yourself and the people around you against hackers. Kevin explains, ‘In addition to your password, you add an extra lock that only you can open. Think of an SMS message you receive on your phone, a PIN code, or your fingerprint. You can compare it to a three-point lock on your front door.’ 

With two-factor authentication, you are setting up a ‘burglar alarm,’ Kevin suggests. ‘Suppose you have set up an SMS message as the second step. You will. If you get such a message, but you were not trying to log in, you should be alerted, and you know that you need to pay extra attention and change your password immediately.’ 

You can find a simple explanation of how to use two-factor authentication and how to set it up for various apps and accounts on the website.  

The original source can be found on Veiliginternetten.nl  website

 

The risk of being hacked? It's bigger than you think.

 Sanne Maasakkers, security specialist at the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre).  

You learn best about securing your home from a burglar; the same goes for your computer. Sanne Maasakkers works as a security specialist for the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), where she prevents cybercriminals from succeeding. She offers tips on how to secure your computer better. 

How likely is it to get hacked, anyway? ‘More probably than you think,’ says Sanne. ‘Cybercriminals usually do not specifically target you. They look for the easiest way to get in. Only once they are inside, they see what they can get, much like an ordinary burglar.’ 

‘My tips,’ Sanne says, ‘are quite simple. Use a strong password for each account and have a different password for each account. Additionally, make your passwords long; this makes them difficult to guess and crack. You can even make them into a whole sentence. It is challenging to remember many different passwords, for which you can use a password manager. Two-factor authentication is always a good idea. You combine something you know (your password) with something you have (your phone).’ 

You can find an easy explanation on our website of how to set up two-factor authentication for various apps and accounts.  

The original source can be found on Veiliginternetten.nl  website

 

Companies are at a standstill for over three weeks after a ransomware attack

Inge van der Beijl, director Behaviour & Resilience at Northwave  

A ransomware attack takes a toll, including psychologically. Insomnia, short temper, quick emotional reactions, and physical symptoms are some of the effects. You might not immediately associate these issues with a ransomware attack, but Inge van der Beijl, Director of Behaviour & Resilience at cybersecurity expert Northwave, researched this. 

This research shows that a ransomware attack impacts everyone in the company. ‘The stress is most significant for the team responsible for resolving the crisis,’ notes Inge. ‘They must work frantically to save the company. It takes 23 days for the company to get back on track. And once that is all settled, the projects have been left undone. This means a stressful period of four to eight months.’ 

Employees can follow these steps to prevent a hack. Use a unique password and make it long. For example, string three words that have personal meaning to you but are nonsensical to others. Additionally, opt for two-factor authentication by logging in using two steps. In addition to your password, you use an extra layer of security to log in. This is like double locking the ‘digital door’ to your company. 

You can find an easy explanation on our website for setting up two-factor authentication for various apps and accounts. 

The original source can be found on Veiliginternetten.nl  website

Find out more about the work of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.   

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