Look, we’ve all been there. Complaining about all the security policy rules and how they waste your time. Frustrated at all the passwords we have to remember. And just when we do, ‘they’ force us to change them. Demanding that we make them more complicated. Stronger. Longer. Random..er. It’s like, why even bother with new technology? The technology that is supposed to make us more productive is making us LESS productive. I’m sorry, but I have some news for you. You are the problem…or at least part of the problem. I know that sounds like bad news, but really it’s good news. Because you can fix you. Psychologist Henry Cloud says, “You can’t fix a problem that’s not in the room.” So once we are all ready to admit that we are the problem, now we can start building a solution, practicing new disciplines and forming new habits.
Here are just a few security habits that you need to stop or start doing.
- Your password is not secure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients give me the puppy dog eyes regarding how simple their password is. They know it. I know it. We all know it. But for those that don’t, here it goes. Sorry, your company name with a few random numbers is not secure. No, your favorite season and the current year is no better. While we are at it, STOP using a word from the alphabet unless you are going to use a passphrase. What’s a passphrase? A passphrase is a way to make you password longer while avoiding a string of random letters, characters and numbers that are impossible to memorize. Length of passwords matter. Hacker @TinkerSec tweeted the other day that “8 character passwords are dead.” They said, “…we can go through the entire keyspace (upper,lower,number,symbol 95^8) of all 8 character passwords in ~5 hours (hashtype NTLM).” That means that no matter what your password is, if it’s 8 characters, you can be hacked in 5 hours or less. So the new norm is going to have to be longer. I’m seeing companies starting to enforce 15 character passwords. How is someone supposed to remember a highly complicated 15 character password? START using Passphrases. The fact is that the passphrase “My father wears sneakers in the pool 1” is more secure than the password “a#IKlfpao76ee” let alone “Snowball2017”. It’s also easier to remember. One catch is that not all systems allow this, so it is not a silver bullet. Which means at the end of the day, it may be unavoidable for you to START using a password manager. A password manager is an app that will securely store your passwords so you can STOP using post it notes. LastPass is a good one that I use. There is a free version for consumers, so now you are without excuse. All of your super complex passwords and passphrases locked tight and at your fingertips. When I introduced LastPass to my wife, it changed her life. In fact, she said, “Using a password manager like LastPass has removed my anxiety of passwords. I can generate a complex password and easily copy and paste when I need to use them.”
- Why just one when you can do two? I won’t spend a lot of time on this one because it is a similar concept to the first one. STOP using only a password, and START using multiple forms of authication. It’s called multi-factor authentication, which basically means that you need two or more separate ways to authenticate your yourself. The concept is simple. You will be more secure if authentication requires 2 of the following 3 items: Something you know, something you have or something you are. Your password is something you know, and hackers have gotten quite good and compromising that. Something you have would be like a key card, or a phone running the google authenticator app. Something you are involves biometrics like a fingerprint scanner or something. Using MFA is getting easier and easier to do, and it will provide much more security.
- You have voices in your head, use them. My mom used to say that, “If it makes your nose wrinkle, pay attention.” As I have stated, you know what is secure. You know when an email looks ‘phishy’. There is a voice deep inside all of us that understands many of these concepts, but disciplining ourselves to listen to it and take action (or forego taking action) can be challenging. If something doesn’t seem right, ask someone. STOP trusting everything. I have heard it said that you should ‘trust, but verify’. If you get an email that looks out of the ordinary from someone, take a couple minutes to call and check. Let them know that it looked suspicious. For example, “Hi Bob, I got an email from you that only contained a link to a website and nothing else. It looked suspicious, and I was going to delete it but wanted to check with you first.” Even if it is a legit email, you are still helping the situation by letting that person know that something they did caused suspicion which might cause them to change behavior and write a little personal note with the link the next time they forward you the latest cat video. START listening to the voices in your head. The voices are often smarter than you think.
These tips will help get you started on the journey ahead. So that hopefully you can STOP adding to the problem, and START becoming part of the solution.
- Change Passwords – Most security experts recommend that companies change out all passwords every 30 to 90 days.
- Require passwords that mix upper and lowercase, number, and a symbol.
- Teach employees NOT to use standard dictionary words ( in any language), or personal data that can be known, or can be stolen: addresses, telephone numbers, SSNs, etc.
- Emphasize that employees should not access anything using another employee’s login. To save time or for convenience, employees may leave systems and screens open and let others access them. This is usually done so one person doesn’t have to take the time to logout and the next take the effort to log back in. Make a policy regarding this and enforce it. If you see this happening, make sure they are aware of it.