How safe is your password? Answer: Not as safe as you might think

Ian McBride, managing director at Condies IT, explains why special characters bring special protection 

Despite most of us knowing what constitutes a good, secure password, too few of us are actually applying this knowledge when we create new accounts.
Countless studies have shown that many Brits still use ‘password’ or ‘123456’ to lock their accounts.
Even when diverting from these easy-to-crack passwords, many of us stick with obvious words and phrases, including dates of birth and the names of children, relatives and pets.
In light of this, software insights firm Better Buys set about demonstrating just how long these weak passwords would take to crack.
The result is its interactive password tester, which shows the exact time it would take for accounts to be hacked into. Most interestingly, it also includes a slider to show how long that password would take to crack for every year back to 1982, and onward to 2020.
The tool measures how soon intruders could crack passwords using a ‘brute force attack’ – where an automated program goes through all combinations of letters and numbers to finally reach the correct one.
Special character brings special protection
A string of seven letters would take 11 minutes and 48 seconds to break in 2015. Changing one to a number, though, would increase it to one hour, 55 minutes and eight seconds.
However, opting for one that contains eight characters, including an uppercase letter, lowercase letter, number and special character (as is becoming increasingly required), would take it to 14 years, four months, two days, 14 hours and 30 minutes.
Adding just one more number takes it up beyond 1,300 years.
At the other end of the spectrum, ‘password’, ‘qwerty’ and ‘123456’ would take just 0.29 milliseconds to break.
A blog on betterbuys.com contained this piece of advice: “As time goes on, it only becomes more likely that your password will be hacked – putting your most personal information at risk.
“By taking a few steps to enhance your password, you can exponently minimize the risk of a breach.
“When it comes to passwords, size trumps all else – so choose one that’s at least 16 characters and be sure to choose a mix of character types (numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters and symbols) to further enhance its security.”
Test your password here. 

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Condies Tech - based in Edinburgh and Dunfermline - offers practical advice and expertise to help make your use of IT more efficient: - Drive out costly, repetitive and time-consuming tasks; improve internal and external communications; keep your finger on the financial pulse of your company, and enable your staff to achieve more, in less time.