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Digital passwords are your first line of defence against cyber security attacks

Imagine that you receive an email from your work email provider requesting that you log in to review recent activity. You click on the button in the email and try to log in to your account. The first login attempt oddly fails, but the second attempt works just fine and you’re into your account. You must have mistyped your password the first time, right?

The reality is that you may have just had your password stolen. The attacker sent an authentic-looking phishing email and the website that you initially reached was a fake. After you submitted your password, the attackers simply redirected you to the actual website to try again without you knowing any better.

With these credentials in hand, the attacker can easily read through all your work emails, reset passwords for other accounts, and wreak havoc on an enterprise network.

More than 81 percent of data breaches were caused by weak or stolen passwords in 2021, according to Verizon. As the report suggests, passwords are still the dominant reason behind successful cyber-attacks. Specifically, a data breach caused by compromised credentials costs $4.37 million on average – higher than a general global average.

With a valid password in hand, attackers can leverage the user’s account to gain access to their other accounts or even protected network resources. Passwords are often the weakest link in enterprise security.

Develop secure passwords

Despite the importance of passwords, most people fail to develop secure passwords or even use different passwords for different accounts. Nearly one-fifth of Internet users create the same password for most of their accounts, while the average password was less than 10 characters long.

Implementing password automation and management for your organisation directly correlates with a reduced risk of suffering from a cyber-attack. One of the most cost-effective tools that might greatly facilitate password management practices is password management software.

Password management software is a software application designed to store and manage online credentials. It also generates passwords. Usually, these passwords are stored in an encrypted database and locked behind a master password. Once all your account usernames and passwords have been entered into the vault, your master password is the only one you are required to commit to memory.

Password management suggestions

Password management software has several benefits, from generating passwords for user logins that are designed to be strong and difficult to hack, to securely storing company credit card details and providing accessibility through syncing to selected devices. It has also been noted to save time by avoiding the “I lost my password” cycle and allowing administration access to sites and services of employees who have had to depart suddenly.

Using a password manager within your IT environment is a critical part of any cyber security strategy. To choose a secure password manager you must really trust the service – after all, it will have to keep your username, passwords, and even credit card credentials safe. A good password vault will also have such features as a Password Breach Checker and Multi-Factor Authentication, and you have to be completely sure that it will deliver its promises to the max.

Do comparison research to ensure the benefits of the software tool meets your organisations needs and be mindful that many of the free password managers operate under a freemium business model, meaning you must pay up if you want the best – sometimes essential – features.

A tip for small and medium-sized businesses: Create a password management policy and let employees know it’s okay to use a password manager to secure their work accounts.

Your staff is already using a hodgepodge of potentially insecure methods to try and manage their many passwords, and most data breaches start with a weak or reused password. An official password manager policy is your first line of defense against a cyberattack on your network.

Related: Microsoft Teams, a revolution in collaboration

Mariette Tolmay
Mariette Tolmay
Mariette Tolmay is the marketing lead at Stratus Blue. She can be contacted at mariette@stratusblue.co.nz.

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