Improving technology with secure passwords

Cybersecurity is a big focus for businesses today. With so much valuable and sensitive data online, companies of any size and industry need to be careful about protecting their information and finances.

While there are many advanced software platforms  and powerful tools available to help mitigate the risk of a data hack, there are some basic security steps that tech users are overlooking, making themselves unnecessarily vulnerable. To make business and consumer technology more secure, users need to start with the basics and create safe, reliable passwords for their devices and networks.

Worst tech passwords to use
When it comes to password hacks, most people worry about faulty encryption and other coding errors that can expose passwords to complex, data-cracking software. While this is indeed a concern, many people overlook the risk of having a password that is easy for a human to guess.

"Users can cut down on risks by changing passwords frequently."

It doesn't take a technical genius or high-powered software to guess certain kinds of passwords. Security firm SplashData released their findings on the worst passwords used in 2015. These were computer or online account passwords that are easy for people to guess and for computer programs to decode quickly.

Topping the list for the second year in a row was "123456," followed again by "password." When hackers are attempting to work their way into an account, these are likely to be the first two they will try due to the overwhelming use of these passwords.

Insecure passwords that climbed higher on the list in 2015 "qwerty", up to spot four from five last year, football, which came in seventh, "1234567", "abc123" and "111111." Newcomers to the list this time around include "passw0rd", "qwertyuiop", "welcome", "starwars" and "1qaz2wsx." Falling from last year, but still prevalent, were "dragon", "letmein" and "monkey."

"We have seen more of an effort by many people to be more secure by adding characters to their passwords, but if these longer passwords are based on simply patterns they will put you in just as much risk of having your identity stolen by hackers," said SplashData CEO Morgan Slain.SplashData CEO Morgan Slain.

These are passwords people are using on a variety of accounts with differing levels of sensitive information, from social media sites to online bank accounts.

Short passwords that follow patterns are easy for people and computers to guess. Short passwords that follow patterns are easy for people and computers to guess.

Making passwords stronger
Making a more secure password isn't as simple as just making it longer. According to PC Mag, patterns that are easy to remember are also easy to guess. Instead, to help create passwords that users won't forget but strangers won't intuit, the source suggests using personal words or phrases but drastically masking them. Taking the name of the city a user was born in and then spelling it backwards, for example. To add an extra layer of security, replace letters with similar numbers or symbols. Typically the letter 'A' can be replaced with a 4 or an @ symbol.

The best passwords will use a mix of letters, numbers, symbols and both upper and lower cases. Most accounts will require a password to be a minimum of six or eight characters, so passwords that are much longer than this will be even harder to crack.

Users can cut down on risks by changing passwords frequently, not using the same password for multiple accounts, never sharing a password with anyone and not writing them down someplace that's easy to see.

IT and tech industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.