Password security has become even more critical in the age of remote work. With more corporate devices online and more new user account creation than ever before, strong passwords take center stage as one of the first lines of defense against hackers.
“Passwords may not seem like much compared with other impressive security solutions or tools, but a well-thought-out password really could make the difference between your data and that of your organization, being vulnerable or secure.” – Ed Williams, Director, Trustwave SpiderLabs EMEA
With the sheer number of services we all use daily, there is still a tendency to be lazy when it comes to passwords. Recent research would support that, highlighting ‘123456’ as the most commonly used password. We also find people neglecting the use of special characters or using the exact same password for every account they have.
Despite a strong password policy being relatively simple to implement inside organizations, there’s still a lot of education to be done.
Did you know: Trustwave found that a password made up of eight characters takes an average of one day to crack, whereas one with ten characters would take an average of 591 days. That’s just two more taps of the keyboard and you’ve enhanced your security by 59100%.
Here are some top tips that we recommend all organizations follow to ensure they have a strong password security posture:
- Add complexity: Our researchers have determined that a password with eight characters could be cracked within just one day using brute-force techniques. It would take the same method hundreds of days longer to crack a 10-character password, and even longer if it also includes symbols, numbers and mixing uppercase and lowercase.
- Use passphrases: Believe it or not, a phrase (such as "GoodLuckGuessingThisPassword") that is very easy for the user to remember - but perhaps lacks complexity in the form of special characters - is actually much stronger overall.
- Change passwords frequently: Passwords should be changed every 60 to 90 days, depending on the sensitivity of the account (generic versus elevated privilege). And don't forget to avoid using the same password across multiple accounts.
- Salt and hash: While the combination sounds like something you might do in the kitchen, IT administrators should use unique, random "salts" when "hashing" stored passwords, whereby a piece of unique, random data is combined with each password before the hash is calculated.
- Implement strong password policies: Yes, password policies are incredibly important but often aren't used to their full capacity. The reason being is those complexity policies, specifically in Windows, don't take into account the context of a password, such as identifiers from the company, a company product, the city in which the company or the local sports team. Unfortunately, without a custom solution, most environments are at the mercy of, for example, Microsoft's password complexity policy in Active Directory.
- Audit passwords: Companies need to perform password audits to determine where the weak links are in companies. Oftentimes, the weakest link are the non-tech-savvy users, which are considered soft targets for attackers.
- Consider two-factor authentication: This technology supplements passwords by providing a second form of verification. Thus, if a user's password is compromised, the second factor (such as a token or a code sent to your phone) acts as another layer of defense.