Companies of all sizes are vulnerable to hackers, and while a data breach is a problem no matter what size the company is, for small businesses, it can have an outsized impact.
That’s because smaller enterprises generally have fewer resources available to investigate a hacking incident, address vulnerabilities and comply with mandatory reporting requirements.
No small business owner wants to have to contact customers and tell them that vital business data has been hacked.
A cyber theft incident can generate negative publicity and severely damage a small business by compromising the company’s competitive edge and depleting client trust in its ability to securely handle data.
Bill Carey is Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Siber Systems Inc. argues there are many security products on the market, but passwords remain a preferred gateway for there hackers, so using stronger passwords is a great place to start when improing cyber security. The length and complexity of the password makes a huge difference in the time it takes to crack a code:
- It takes two minutes to hack a five-character password with all lowercase letters: In other words, in the time it takes to place a drive-thru order and receive food, a hacker could gain access to a company’s most sensitive business data.
- It takes 10 minutes to hack a five-character password with lowercase letters and numbers: If walking a dog around the block is about the same amount of time it takes for a hacker to crack a simple password and access information.
- It takes an hour to hack a five-character password with upper and lowercase letters: Hackers can access, copy and distribute a company’s business information in approximately the same time it takes to watch a television show.
- It takes 17 years to hack an eight-character password with upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols: It would take a hacker approximately as long as it takes a parent to raise a child to adulthood to crack a complex password.
The obvious takeaway here is that the more complex the password, the less vulnerable it is to hacking. Most cyber thieves who encounter a hard-to-crack password will move on to more vulnerable targets. But the challenge is to create passwords that are tough to guess but easy to remember.
Here are some tips from Carey that can help:
- Use numbers that resemble letters to create a password that is memorable yet complex enough to withstand a hacking attempt. For example, the word “Goodnight” could be transformed into a stronger password by entering it in as “G00dn19ht.”
- Use keyboard mapping to transform an easy-to-remember password into a tough-to-crack code. Think of a word, and instead of typing in the actual word, type in the key above and to the left of each letter. Using this technique, the word “Werewolf” becomes “@34329or.”
- Think of a sentence and create a password using the first letter of each word, plus numbers and punctuation. With this technique, Hamlet’s famous “To be, or not to be” line can become “2B,on2B?” – a more challenging, complex password.
Since passwords should also be changed frequently and should never be used across multiple sites, some business professionals find it easier to use a password management system instead of coming up with their own strong passwords for the systems and sites they access. An effective password management system can allow users to sign on with one password to access however many systems and sites they use.
Password management systems can reduce vulnerability by automatically creating strong passwords and changing them frequently.
Whether is chosen to create and maintain strong passwords or use a password management system to streamline the process, it’s important that they protect vital business data with strong passwords.
Remember, a hacker can crack a simple password in just a couple of minutes. Cleaning up a data breach at your company – and regaining client trust – would take much longer.
About the Author
Bill Carey is Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Siber Systems Inc providers of ,RoboForm Password Manager software.