By Matt Belyus
Technical Valet

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Why so many passwords? Why do they need to change? What do they need to be so long and complex?

The last place I worked had many laptops for the sales team and they wanted a simple password. The computer security group said that harder passwords should be required for many reasons, but overruled by one of the vice presidents.

The simple passwords were the norm for many years. It was ‘pass1234’ and most of the salespeople had the same one. Then one day, the sales director had his laptop stolen at an airport. We immediately changed the password on the account, so the person with the laptop would not be able to access any company systems. We didn’t see any issues for months, then we began to see directed emails to people inside the company. The emails would appear to be from the president or a vice president at first and may just ask how someone was doing. Then a few emails came in requesting to get gift cards and send the code back to the supervisor, then came the big request of a wire transfer for a large amount of money. It looked legitimate on the surface with coming from the CEO.

The person that stole the laptop had learned all the names and positions in the company. The wire transfer was sent and the money was never seen again. A strong password would have helped prevent this and saved a lot of money. If someone learns of one of your passwords, then they will try it for any other accounts you have. Does your Facebook account have the same password as your bank? Have you had the same password for years? Is it only eight characters long and is it something that you mention on social media such as your pet or family member’s name? The list goes on and on. We have seen security experts get into accounts in just seconds of someone they do not even know.

We recommend using a password manager. A password manager will allow having the different passwords for your different accounts and will be as long and complex as needed, with the benefit of now having to remember them all. For consumers we recommend Lastpass and 1Password, both are great. We just wanted to lay the ground work of why passwords need to be more complex. We will have a review in the near future for these two password managers.

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