The Password Problem. Is it Your Problem?

You probably have more than one account protected using password security. According to Microsoft Research, you probably have at least 25. Those accounts probably include a mix of both personal and business accounts, spanning many services such as email, calendaring, collaboration, banking, instant messaging, and social networking.  And the list goes on and grows daily.

You probably also know that to improve your security, you should set a unique password for each of those accounts.  And each password should be lengthy, with a combination of letters, symbols and numbers. In addition, each unique, complex password should be changed often. At least once every 3-4 months.

Do you do all of this?

Probably not.  Most people don’t.  The password problem is that being security-minded does not usually equate with ease-of-use. Most people use the same password for all services. Or they choose different, but simple, easy-to-remember, and easy-to-break, passwords.  These simple passwords are often the name of their children, their family name, their user account name, or the street on which they live.  McAfee Labs reports that some of the top, famous ‘secret’ passwords breached frequently include “password”, “qwerty” and “123456”. And worse, some people combine both approaches and use the same, simple password for multiple accounts.

Unfortunately, ease-of-use comes at a cost. For the simple, memorable password, ease-of-use has also just been given to the person trying to breach the account.  They can simply use a “brute force” method and have a computer continually guess the password until it is found.

Then, if the same password has been used for all services, once one of the services gets breached, all the other accounts are also at risk. And with the number of accounts and services constantly increasing, the risk of a breach increases too.  And yet, so does the size of the password problem.

So how can you solve the password problem? One solution that reduces the account-overload is called “single sign-on”. A single sign-on solution allows users the ability to login once, and then that authentication instantly enables access across multiple applications. As a result, the user only has to create, remember and then refresh one password that complies with password best practices.

A solution that addresses the challenge of the strength of the password itself is called “one-time password.” It does this by adding another layer of security. Once the username and password are entered, the user is prompted to also provide a one-time password.  The one-time password is a unique code generated by an application that may be on a mobile device or PC, and is associated with that specific user. This approach or method requiring both authentication steps is referred to as two-factor authentication, strong authentication or two-step authentication.  By using this method, no one can breach an account by just knowing the username and password.  They also need physical access to the mobile phone or PC that runs the one-time password application. Because of its ease-of-use and improved security, many popular, online and cloud-based services like Facebook and Google are moving to adopt two-factor authentication.

The password problem can be solved. Reduce the number of accounts you need a unique password for by implementing a single sign-on solution. Improve the security of that password with a simple, easy-to-use one-time password utility.  With these two solutions, people and the companies they work for can feel confident that their accounts, and their identities, are more secure and easier to manage.

If you have any questions about single sign-on or one-time password solutions or technologies, feel free to ask or comment here in this post.  I’m here to help.  Or, feel free to open an interactive chat with us at the Center now by using our Click-to-Consult option.

Also, considering checking into our Intel and McAfee Password Day on May 7th.  Join us for a Tweet Chat, or enter a sweepstakes using Intel’s password grader tool through May 26th.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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