In early May 2018, Microsoft engineers published a blog post explaining details about an initiative that seeks to eliminate the traditional username/password combination to access computing devices and online accounts.
What Microsoft is proposing started off with the implementation of Windows Hello, a feature of Windows 10 that takes advantage of biometrics such as fingerprint readers and face scanners instead of username and password credentials.
While Microsoft is certainly taking a major step in the right direction with Windows Hello, it will take a while before all desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones are equipped with the required biometrics support. In the meantime, computer users should learn about proper password security.
The Importance of Securing Your Passwords
Identity theft and data breach incidents are taking place at an alarming rate. One aspect of password security hackers have been taking advantage of is related to the preference that computer users give to simple and personal words when setting up their credentials.
With the abundance of public records and social media information available to just about anyone, hackers can gain access to online accounts by trying out names of relatives, birthdates, schools, Facebook friends, favorite sports teams, and others.
Password complexity can certainly help to reduce the risk of devices and online accounts being breached; however, this makes the login process more difficult, especially for users who manage multiple accounts and devices.
The key is to make things easier with an extra layer of security that is both safe and efficient. Here are some recommendations in this regard.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Windows Hello includes 2FA as one of its secure login options. This method is fairly simple to implement and allows you to retain simple passwords; the second authenticating factor can be a PIN code received via smartphone, a code generated with a portable security token or a fingerprint scanner that can be connected to the USB port. The idea is to make that second factor very personal; in other words, a hacker would have to steal your smartphone or security token in addition to stealing your credentials.
Password Management Vaults
An alternative to 2FA is to make very strong passwords that include symbols, numbers and long strings of characters for all you online accounts. Naturally, you will not be able to remember all these passwords, but you can let a password manager app handle them for you.
Password vaults can be installed on a computer, smartphone or USB drive; you can also use an online vault, but you will still have to create a single complex and unique password to access your login credentials.
Creating and Remembering a Complex Password
When you set out to create a long and complex password to set up your vault, you can use a mnemonic device to remember it; for example, let’s consider the password below:
A mnemonic pass phrase to remember this string could be:
“thirty-three stars on my block shine bright every night at seven”
The key is to remember that the numbers at the beginning and end of the string are digits, “stars” stands for the asterisk symbol, the first lowercase letter of each word is part of the password, and “at” stands for the @ symbol.
Once you have mnemonically remembered a complex password to access your vault, you can let the software handle online login procedures.