How safe is your personal password? - WFLA News Channel 8

How safe is your personal password?

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 As we get more tied to our technology, passwords are quickly becoming the keys to our lives.

"It's the way of life now; it's like passwords, passwords, passwords," said Rebecca Maltbie, an incoming senior at the University of South Florida.

Months ago Maltbie got a warning from Facebook telling her someone tried to log into her account from another state. What if they would have cracked her code? Now, Maltbie thinks twice about what other accounts they could've gotten in to.

"I definitely share [passwords] because sometimes I just can't remember," she said. "There's so many passwords I have for everything. I have school passwords, for my banking, for social media sites."

Avoiding using the same passwords on social and important banking counts is rule number one for Manish Agrawal, Associated Professor of Information System & Decisions at the University of South Florida College of Business.

"If you have a Facebook account and you're using a password then more than likely you're using the same password on your Bank of America account," Agrawal said. "[Hackers] are going by the assumption most people do not use too many passwords."

A recent story published in The Daily Mail Online showed hackers managed to crack 90% of 16,449 passwords.

"From a broader security perspective, it doesn't change much," Agrawal said. "The way they have cracked those passwords was in a fairly synthetic environment. They got passwords, the publication gave them some passwords and asked them to crack it. They had free reign over those passwords offline so they could try out any number of passwords on them."

Most banks, for instance, lock accounts after a certain number of tries.

Agrawal said it's always been technologically feasible to track passwords. In the past it's been just a matter of how much a hacker is willing to spend on a computing system to try out all possible passwords.

"Now we know it's not real expensive; computers are getting faster and somebody has proven that, yes, for a fairly limited investment, we can actually come up with passwords that can be broken," Agrawal said.

He suggests using passwords with at least 8 characters. Use a combination of lower and upper case letters. Use numbers and symbols (like #, %, ^) when possible.

Also avoid putting your full birthday, phone number or address on your personal profile and don't reveal your birth place. Twitter, Facebook and Google are also using two-factor authentication you can sign up for to get an extra layer of protection.

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