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    Why Small Businesses Need to Reinforce Password Security

    Why Small Businesses Need to Reinforce Password Security

    The increasing frequency of cyberattacks and the growing number of cybercriminals targeting small-scale entrepreneurs are crucial reasons why small businesses need to focus on reinforcing strict password protocols. In fact, news reports indicate that small business owners lose an average of $7.68 million per data breach.

    Fortunately, you can prevent security threats that compromise data and credentials by following various cybersecurity practices such as password management.

    Companies are increasingly moving all their operations to the digital space, and a small business cannot afford to be complacent. Having multiple password policies active will limit access to sensitive company files and information on a need-to-know basis, thus reducing the risks of a breach.

    What Is Password Security?

    This type of security indicates the capacity of your password to withstand attacks from cybercriminals and protect your accounts. A more intricate combination reduces the likelihood of falling victim through the following methods:

    • Phishing Scams: Do not carelessly open links and pop-up windows asking for your log-in information on various platforms.
    • Brute-Force Attack: A brute-force attack automatically inputs all possible character combinations. This attack's biggest drawback is it takes up too much time. In most cases, you can shield yourself from brute-force attacks by using lengthy combinations and having employees update their passwords every few weeks or so.
    • Dictionary Attack: Dictionary attacks classify as a more intelligent brute-force approach. Generally, the cybercriminal will input possible character combinations based on your previous password history. Protect yourself by generating unique, unpredictable strings of alphanumeric characters.

    Strive to create strong, unique passwords for all personal and business accounts. Even minor lapses in your non-work-related emails can serve as an entry point for cybercriminals to tap into various channels, such as online bank accounts, Personal Identifiable Information (PII) business database systems, and social media accounts.

    How Can I Reinforce Strong Password Protocols?

    Password cybersecurity goes beyond the organization-wide implementation of passwords.

    Even if every employee had a password on their business account, these systems would not serve their purpose unless the managers and tech department play an active role in utilizing them. Some tips to improve cybersecurity through passwords include:

    1. Teach Employees to Make Secure Passwords

    Do not let your employees use weak passwords. Studies indicate that your passwords' length, character combination, and predictability play a crucial role in their efficacy as cybersecurity tools. Even if your entire company uses multiple passwords, cybercriminals can still hijack your business database if the passwords on your accounts are too simple.

    With that in mind, strengthen your passwords through special characters, length, and unpredictability. It would help if you picked a combination of random characters instead of words or phrases.

    Also, consider the time it would take to for crooks to brute-force their way into your accounts. For example, statistics show that a hacker can brute-force any given alphanumeric, five-character password with a mix of upper and lower case in 31 seconds. However, increasing the password length to seven and mixing keyboard symbols would prolong the hacking process to 27 days.

    For your master password, we suggest going with a 15-character password with a good mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special keyboard symbols. Research indicates it would take even skilled attackers millions to billions of years to brute-force these accounts open. Although, you can also use a password manager to auto-generate intricate passwords.

    2. Rely on Two-Step Verification Protocols

    Require every employee to set up two-step verification protocols on their account. The extra log-in verification process ensures that the designated user has total control over their account. For maximum efficiency, we suggest linking your two-step verification account to a phone number or email address that you always use.

    3. Invest in Password Managers

    Many users stick with weak passwords to avoid the inconvenience of having to remember a secure, difficult alphanumeric character combination. Research even indicates that 59% of most internet users use the same passwords for all their accounts. To prevent your employees from bringing this trend into the workplace, use a password manager.

    Having a password manager in place creates a multi-layer security system wherein your employees do not necessarily have to memorize the passwords that you set on various files. Instead, they will have access to multi-layer business logins that grant verified employees access to specific systems.

    4. Make Routine Password Changes

    Even if you have a password manager to auto-generate intricate combinations and add an extra layer of protection to your logins, strive to change your passwords routinely. For employees, suggest that they create new passwords at least every two to three months.

    However, with super-sensitive data, strive to generate fresh, unique combinations every 15 to 30 days. This practice reduces the chances of cybercriminals logging into your accounts.

    Note: Make sure to disseminate updates on password changes through secure, protected, and private channels.

    5. Close the Gap Between the IT and Your Employees

    Make it as easy as possible for your employees to reach out to the IT department—and vice versa. Stimulate good communication between these parties to ensure that they work together toward improving your company's overall protection and privacy.

    Does your network already have a firewall in place? Assured Standard shares that having software and hardware firewalls can drastically reduce the risk of cyberattacks compromising sensitive data. For a more detailed explanation, read our guide on how to use firewalls.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the most secure password?

    According to the most current advice, you should use a strong password. A good password has at least 12 characters and includes numbers, symbols, capital letters, and lower-case letters in order to make it harder for others to crack your code.

    You may also want an alphanumeric character of some sort for added security when logging into accounts that are sensitive or personal such as email or social media pages.

    What is an example of a bad password?

    It's never a good idea to use the same password for multiple websites, or cycling through only one or two passwords. Never use obvious or easy-to-guess passwords such as “password” and “user.” On that note, avoid choosing words that are easily found in the dictionary. As stated above, make sure your password is lengthy and contains a mix of characters.

    What can a hacker do with your password?

    Criminals can steal the personal information of your online accounts and use it to hack into them without your knowledge. This causes an account takeover, where they can change all of your credentials (think your social media username or even personal email account) so that you won't be able to get back in if something should happen with their hacking attempts on your data.

    Does changing password stop hackers?

    The use of a secure password is one way to prevent cybercriminals from accessing your accounts. Updating and changing passwords regularly improves security measures that are in place for online safety, so keep those account passwords updated.

    How do hackers get your password?

    There are lots of ways hackers can get your passwords, but the most common practice is when cyber criminals have access to are stolen in large business data breaches from popular online services. When popular and powerful companies like LinkedIn, eBay, or Adobe leak millions of records containing sensitive information, it makes sense that these hacked databases would also contain all kinds of personal login credentials as well.

    Protecting Your Business From Password Theft

    Some of the best practices to combat cyberattacks include setting up multiple password policies, utilizing a business password manager, and generating a highly confidential master password.

    We encourage integrating your management tactics with other modern, efficient cybersecurity technology. Doing so will also avoid password overload, which is when your employees have to memorize several passcodes for their day-to-day business activities.

    Your small business should strive to limit the people they share their tools and data with. Do not allow all your employees to gain access to sensitive PII—especially ones that could cause your company to shut down if placed in the wrong hands. Good security practices start with limiting access to company information to a select group of people.

    Assured Standard has multiple resources on the best ways to shield your computers, software programs, and cloud systems from cyberattacks. Check out our article on cybersecurity best practices for your small business for more information.

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