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Password Management Done Right

Tom Cruise - Mission Impossible

Despite the advances in technology and software that have been developed, many businesses still rely on basic passwords for authentication. These passwords can become a very serious security weakness if a business is being targeted by a hacker or other malicious individual. There are five basic techniques that can help any business to keep passwords more secure.

Create Unique Passwords 

Despite the fact that an entire department might have to remember a password it is always best to create a unique password that involves capital letters, lower case letters and numbers or punctuation. Passwords should be created individually for each system. A pattern should never be used to generate passwords across multiple applications or websites because these can be easily hacked once a single password is discovered. Changed passwords should also be completely different from the previous password to avoid this same issue.

Do Not Save Passwords

Some applications offer to save passwords so that a user can just click a single button to log in. This should never be done and the mechanisms that allow this option to be selected should be disabled so no employee can do this. A saved website, network or application password not only leaves the terminal vulnerable but it also stores the password somewhere on the computer where it could be located and deciphered.

password management

Use Advanced Management Software 

There are certain pieces of software from companies like Venafi that can give a system administrator the ability to manage and maintain collections of passwords for users or to manage authentication certificates. Some applications allow passwords to be hidden from users and entered automatically with just a few clicks. Programs like Venafi certificate manager allow the management of more technical password-related encryption and security activity on a network to ensure that the systems are safe.

Never Store Passwords In An Unsecured Location

Passwords should never be written down on paper or in a text file that is stored in an unsecured location. This includes in the local storage of a shared server since that space can be easily accessed by a hacker. The only way to record passwords should be in a password-protected, encrypted document that is located in a secure location within the network. It is usually a better practice to simply employ password recovery mechanisms if a password has been forgotten.

Change Passwords Often

Every business should change passwords often. This can be once a month or once every week. Passwords should be changed when employees leave and whenever there is even the smallest sign that something might be wrong. Changing passwords on regular and irregular schedules can deter hackers by making long-term password gathering techniques ineffective.

A business should take all available precautions to ensure that there are no obvious holes in the password security. Regardless, changing passwords frequently is the best defense because it will prevent previous employees from revealing passwords and can stop some hacking techniques from working. Ultimately, it takes a combination of good security and good policies to keep passwords safe.

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One comment

  1. Good article. However,

    “…it is always best to create a unique password that involves capital letters, lower case letters and numbers or punctuation”

    Many systems don’t allow passwords to contain spaces or punctuation, and some don’t even distinguish between upper and lower case. And many systems we use everyday (banks, voicemail, etc.) only allow numbers, and a very limited size at that (4 or 5).

    Here’s another humorous view of the password situation:

    http://xkcd.com/538/

    http://xkcd.com/936/

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