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Best Practices for IT Password Security

Managing passwords may seem like a simple task that no one even discusses; however, without any complications or challenges, improper management can cause significant damage. According to research, almost 81% of hacking-related breaches were caused by stolen or weak passwords.  

Proper password management involves several key components to ensure password security and prevent vulnerabilities. While these components may seem like drudgeries to most of us, it is essential to understand that it's not the complex parts that are most vulnerable, but the parts that are least prepared and cared for. In this article, we will discuss the best practices for proper password management to avoid common mistakes and simplify the complexity of password management.

Common Password Mistakes to Avoid

Reusing Passwords on Different SaaS Applications

It can be difficult for people to remember many passwords, and on average, individuals need to recognize over 90 passwords. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are aware of our limitations and tendencies. They often begin brute force attacks to takeover the accounts with commonly used password credentials, which they can quickly obtain from breached password dumps.

A shocking 53% of respondents to a study admitted to using the same password across multiple accounts.

Writing Down Passwords

Although this point may be open to discussion, there are some clear cases where everyone needs to stop certain practices immediately. Consider walking around an open office and noticing sticky notes on desks or boards where employees have written down their passwords in plain sight. This is a red flag that needs to be addressed.

Writing down your passwords with a pen is not necessarily insecure. The level of security depends on where you keep the object containing your passwords, such as in a notebook or on a whiteboard, and the likelihood of a criminal stumbling upon it.

Stolen and Weak Password Security Breaches

Sharing Passwords in Unsafe Ways

Sharing passwords is a common practice that can make you vulnerable to data breaches and hacking attacks. However, it is often unavoidable. Thankfully, a password manager can provide a secure and convenient way to share private information while mitigating the risks associated with password sharing.

Using Simple and Weak Passwords

Using short and simple passwords makes it easier for attackers to guess or crack them. In a report by NordPass, data from public third-party breaches that affected Fortune 500 companies was analyzed. The report found that many of the commonly used passwords were predictable and easily guessable, such as "123456," "Hello123," and "sunshine." Surprisingly, 20% of the passwords found were either the exact name of the company or a slight variation of it, such as the company name followed by a number or year.

Adding complexity to your passwords by using a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and personalization is a must-have for all users. According to a report by Specops, 88% of brute force password attacks in 2023 used passwords with 12 characters or less, and nearly a quarter of those attacks used only 8 characters. By using longer and more complex passwords, you can significantly increase your protection against such attacks.

Password Management Best Practices

It's equally important to understand how to avoid the aforementioned mistakes and what measures should be taken to ensure the safety of our passwords. Therefore, in this section, we will delve deeper into how users and organizations can protect their passwords using modern policies and best practices.

Set Password Requirements - Password Policy

Employees and user identities must follow a detailed password policy to access company resources. Passwords should be unique and complex to prevent malicious actions. The following are some of the standing criteria that everyone must consider:

  • When creating a password, it is important to choose a length that provides sufficient security. According to Specops' resources, passwords should be at least 18 characters long.
  • Passwords should include a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters for greater security.
  • Have you ever watched a typical mystery film where a character sits before a computer and cracks a password in just three guesses? They usually think about the person and try to guess what password they would choose. In the end, they succeed in signing in to the computer. If you want to avoid being a part of such a clich√©, it's best not to pick a password that contains words related to you or is easily guessable. Passwords that include names, kids' names, pets' names, or common phrases are much easier to guess. To eliminate the risk, it's important to avoid using recognizable words in passwords.
  • Make sure that employees refrain from using old passwords that were previously used on the site.¬†

As these practices rely heavily on the trust between employees and the organization, it is difficult to determine if the employees are actually adhering to the best password practices or not. It is hard for organizations to verify this criterion. Fortunately, Resmo SaaS Inventory can assist in this regard by ensuring that employees are indeed using strong and unique passwords and have proper permissions set. If any discrepancies are found, Resmo will send alerts to the relevant user until the password is changed to a stronger one.

Implement Security Policies Across All Devices and Applications

Many employees use their personal devices for work-related activities. For instance, 75% use their personal cell phones for work. To avoid any vulnerabilities, 83% of companies have a BYOD policy. However, some companies are still unaware of this concept and do not implement any security requirements that could potentially provide an open check to malicious actors.

Bring Your Own Device BYOD

Allowing BYOD without implementing any security requirements may result in irrecoverable breaches. Whether it's a company laptop, an employee's personal device, an iPad, or even a cell phone brought by the employee, if a device is configured to connect to company resources, it must be protected.

Prevent the Usage of the Same Password for Multiple Accounts

These days, it seems like having an account is a prerequisite for almost everything online. Despite our collective exhaustion from creating and remembering strong and distinct passwords for each account, the solution is not to choose a single password and use it for all your accounts. 

While it may seem like a daunting task to create unique passwords for all online accounts, it's worth the effort to keep sensitive information safe from cybercriminals. Using cyber security measures such as password managers and MFA, users can prevent malicious actors from gaining access to their accounts and keep personal and corporate data secure.

Change/Rotate Passwords Regularly

It's common to receive prompts from bank apps on our phones to update our passwords every six months. After all, there must be something they know that we don't. But what about all the other passwords we use that don't come with such prompts? It's important to keep all our passwords up to date and adjust our security measures to stay ahead of potential threats.

Password rotation is a security practice that involves regularly changing passwords to prevent unauthorized access to personal or business information.

Password rotation is an essential practice to keep our digital information safe. It's important to create strong, unique passwords and change or rotate them regularly to maintain the highest level of security.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

To achieve the highest level of security, it is recommended to pair a strong password policy with multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA requires users to provide two or more forms of identification to access an account. It may be something you know, something you have, and something you are.

MFA dramatically enhances an organization's security posture by adding multiple layers of defense, significantly reducing the likelihood of unauthorized access. It adds an additional layer to prevent malicious actors from accessing systems even if they have captured the password.

Give Security Training to Your Employees on Social Engineering Attacks

It is important to ensure that your employees understand why company policies are necessary, as this will increase their likelihood of compliance. When employees have a security-oriented mindset, it becomes easier to implement policies that work in different situations. 

These methods are often disguised cleverly and require the victim's participation in undermining their own security. Instead of dictating policies to your employees, it is better to give them a sense of security and encourage them to adopt best practices as part of their daily habits.

Leverage Technology

It is quite normal to feel overwhelmed by the myriad of password requirements and changes necessary for maintaining user security. To alleviate this burden, here are some suggestions:

Use a Password Manager

Data breaches are often caused by weak, shared, or compromised passwords. Using password managers can help end users generate and securely store complex passwords, which helps to improve the overall security of the organization. These tools also minimize downtime caused by forgotten passwords, making them an ideal solution for password management.

Continuously Monitor, Identify and Manage with Resmo

Utilize Resmo to discover and manage shared SaaS accounts, reducing the risk of compromise and contractual violations. Quickly address licensing issues and ensure all employees adhere to secure password practices. 

Resmo assists in identifying accounts accessed by multiple employees, as well as detecting weak, shared, and reused passwords across all SaaS applications used within the company. Try Resmo today and see how it weakens the burden of continuous manual checks. Register here!

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