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How To Make Your Internet Browsing More Secure…

June 6, 2012

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One of the common reasons given by IT departments for blocking access to social media at work is that it presents a huge security risk.  People can browse dodgy websites or provide access to private information.

Picking a good password is obviously the first step to securing both your online activity, and indeed your mobile phone.  Tales of people choosing shockingly bad passwords are the stuff of legend.  ‘password’ was the most popular in 2011, whilst the likes of 123456 and god remain enduringly popular.

Whilst Gen Y like to think they’re the digital natives that are most at home on the web, new research reveals that it is in fact the over 55′s that are most secure on their travels throughout cyberspace.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge analysed passwords from over 70 million Yahoo users.  They then calculated the strength of each password grouped by demography and compared the results.

In terms of national champions, the Germans and Koreans were found to use the best passwords.  Bottom of the league table were Indonesians.

Interestingly having a credit card on your account does little to encourage a more secure password.  People with such important data to protect avoid the real stinkers but are no better than the rest of us in selecting highly secure passwords.

It’s perhaps not surprising to learn that people that regularly change their passwords were found to have the strongest ones.

So how secure are passwords in general?

Turns out not very.  Strength is measured in terms of bits.  Cracking one bit is 50/50, ie the equivalent of tossing a coin.  Each additional bit then doubles the strength of the password.

The research found that on average the strength of the password is less than 10 bits, meaning it would take approximately 1,000 attempts to crack it.  To provide a comparison, a six character password containing numbers, upper case and lower case letters offers approximately 32 bits of protection.

If you want to ensure both yourself and your employees are using IT safely then you should assign them a randomly chosen 9 digit number.  This would provide you with a 1,000 fold increase in security over the average user.

“I think it’s reasonable to expect people to have the capacity to remember that, because they do it for phone numbers,” the researcher says.

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Written by Adi Gaskell

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