Behrman House Blog

Online Passwords: Headaches or Lifesavers?

     Have you ever had a friend who has unknowingly sent you some kind of spam through email and then had to spend hours or even days sending around more emails telling everyone not to open the previous message because their account was hacked? Sure, we all have. It may even have happened to you.

     This is just one of the reasons why, in my role as a system administrator and technology consultant at several different organizations, I insist on choosing complicated passwords for employees who need access to company data. The practice provides both security and peace of mind.

     Recently, I came across an article on Business Week’s website which provides one of the best explanations of how important it is to pick strong passwords.

     Modern hackers are getting very good, and very fast. Let’s say you choose a password that is 6 characters long and contains only lowercase letters. Something like “acorns” or maybe something a little harder, like “xltpqr” According to the study in Business Week, hackers can figure either one of these out in an average of 10 minutes flat!

     If you just add a few uppercase letters to your 6 character passwords, for example, “aCoRn,” you can increase the average hack time to 10 hours If you add a number or symbol to your 6 character password, (aC*Rn) it will take hackers 18 days to figure out your password. Such simple additions to your password can make a big difference.

     At my companies I require an 8 character password which contains at least 1 number, 1 symbol, 1 uppercase letter and 1 lowercase letter. Passwords like these will take an average of 463 years to figure out and are the reason why I sleep better at night!

     It’s a fact of online life today that everyone needs passwords. so I would like to urge you to think about the passwords you use. What kind of online account is it? For example, if you are doing online banking, or shopping in an account where you leave your credit card on file, it is extremely important to use a complex password. Playing a game? Well, perhaps not so much. You might also want to consider how long you plan to continue using any particular password or account.

     If it’s just for a short time, or narrow purpose, however, you may not need such a complicated password. Passwords for Hebrew online learning for one school term might fall into that category.

     Many religious school teachers call us seeking help in setting up their students with Behrman House’s online digital applications. They’d like to recommend user names and passwords to their students but aren’t sure what to suggest. One very useful tip I recommend to everyone is to assign (or ask your students to pick) user names that will help you quickly and easily identify each student Two favorite and easy convention are to use either firstname.lastname or first_initial_lastname. This will help any teacher quickly see who is who in your class and if you see the assessment of a student who looks like he or she may need some additional help in class, identification is easy and simple.

     As for passwords, since your students will only be using each online account for a term or two, you could recommend that they pick shorter passwords, such as a 7 character password that combines upper and lowercase letters. This way the students will have passwords that are easier to remember, and you will have fewer headaches!



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