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Password Security: How Employees are Putting Businesses at Risk

Password Security: How Employees Are Putting Businesses At Risk

Having secure systems is important to keep your business functioning, regardless of what size your company is. Whether you’re a sole trader, a growing enterprise or a large, international corporation, implementing password security policies is vital for on-going success.

Why Password Security is Important

First, a breach of security can disrupt your business functions for days, weeks or months. If data is lost or your systems are compromised, your company cannot operate until the issue is resolved. This means your productivity will plummet, at a significant cost to your firm.

Second, a data loss caused by a security breach caused by bad password security could lead to large fines and potential legal action.

Finally, consumers place a lot of value on security. If a breach becomes public knowledge, your company could suffer in the long-term. Even if the damage can be limited and data recovered, the fact that a security breach has occurred at all could harm your reputation and result in the loss of customers. Just take a look at the biggest data breaches of the 21st century.

With that in mind, it’s clear why password security is so important in a business context. Regardless of what hardware, systems or software you’re using, having reliable and effective security measures in place is essential.

Is Your Password Security Policy a Risk for Your Business?

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Increasing digitization has led to the frequent use of passwords. Indeed, we’re used to having to type in a password to access almost any online account or software. Whether you’re handling sensitive documents at work or doing your grocery shopping online, you’ll need to input at least one password in order to access accounts.

When used properly, passwords can be an effective way of preventing unauthorized access to systems and files. As well as preventing prying eyes from viewing confidential documents, passwords can also stop anyone from making unwanted changes to your system.

However, this type of security is only as good as the person using the password. This means that your employees are playing an integral role in the security of your business and they need to be up to the task.

We’re repeatedly told how important it is to have strong passwords, but this isn’t a message that always resonates. In fact, Verizon’s latest Data Breach Investigations Report estimates that a staggering 81% of data breaches could be traced back to a reused or weak password.

With companies suffering losses totaling millions of dollars from data breaches, and consumers also being put at risk, it’s clear that password security needs to be prioritized in businesses across the country.

Enhancing Password Security

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Now that you know why employee password security puts businesses at risk of security breaches, it should be relatively easy to rectify the situation. Understanding why employees act in a particular way is the first step to changing their behavior. Similarly, learning why password security is important and knowing how to improve it gives your employees some insight into how important it is to making your organization more secure.

Educating employees

Before implementing any new systems or protocols, it’s vital to educate your employees about password safety. Many people simply don’t realize the dangers that poor password practice brings, so teaching them about the risks can be the most effective way to encourage them to manage their passwords more appropriately. You can find a variety of videos and resources that you can have your employees watch about password security.

(Recommended Read: Keeping Your Business Safe: Essential Cybersecurity Tips)

Of course, password security training should be part of wider IT security education. Phishing is another common way that employees inadvertently allow unauthorized personnel to gain access to business networks, for example. With robust IT security training, you can ensure your employees are aware of the dangers associated with poor password management and the importance of recognizing security risks.

Enforcing new security measures

Instead of giving employees the option to use certain password security features, make it mandatory. Two-factor authentication is a great way to make your systems more secure, for example, so don’t let employees choose not to use it.

By incorporating two-factor authentication into your in-house systems and making it a requirement when any external systems are used for business purposes, you can increase your IT security and password security right away.

business-man-password-conceptKeeping Passwords Physically Secure

Employees should never be writing passwords down and storing them somewhere dangerous. If workers are keeping notes of passwords on their desktops or in their email, this needs to be stopped immediately. Of course, effective security training should help employees to realize just how dangerous this is and will naturally encourage them to stop doing it.

There are also a variety of other ways you can help employees remember potentially complicated or lengthy passwords, thus negating the need for digital or written notes.

Using password managers

Password managers act as a vault and are able to store hundreds of passwords at once while offering high levels of encryption, they can revolutionize your password security and overcome many of the issues employees face when it comes to keeping accounts secure.

By storing passwords in a dedicated manager, employees can use unique passwords for every account, without the fear of forgetting them. Similarly, workers won’t feel forced to choose simplistic passwords because they’re worried about remembering complex strings of characters. In addition, personnel won’t be tempted to write their passwords down anywhere else, because they simply won’t need to.

Password generation

Thinking of strong passwords can be difficult, particularly as there seem to be so many requirements. Choosing a password with a lot of varied characters and a mixture of upper and lowercase letters can increase security, but why take the risk?

Instead of allowing employees to choose their own passwords, use a password generator. A reliable and reputable password generator will ensure that every worker is using a strong and robust password for every account.

As a result, you won’t need to worry about weak passwords acting as a gateway to hackers or other unauthorized personnel.

Frequent password changes

Keeping the same password for long periods of time increases the risk of being hacked. Companies should insist that employees change their passwords on a regular basis, as this will help to reduce the risk of a security breach.

Some businesses require password changes every 30, 60 or 90 days, other companies have even more frequent password changes. In sensitive environments, it’s not uncommon for passwords to be changed on a daily basis. Alternatively, it may be necessary to change a password every time an account has been accessed, as this will help to prevent subsequent security issues.

If you don’t want to task your employees with updating their passwords all of the time, you can find a password manager that does it automatically.

Monitoring usage

Another way of enhancing password security is to monitor account usage on a regular basis. By determine when logins have occurred and what action has been taken, you can highlight unusual patterns of activity. Often, this is the first sign of a security breach, so it can be a highly effective way of preventing further damage from occurring. With an established pattern of behavior already documented, you should find it far easier to identify anomalies and potential security issues.

In addition, providing your workers with the IT support they need is crucial to fostering a positive attitude when it comes to IT security. If it will take half a day to access a locked account, it’s not surprising that employees are choosing simple passwords or reusing the same password over and over. However, if workers are confident they can access IT assistance whenever they need it, they’ll be more willing to use the new technology you make available to them.

Why Employees are Using Bad Passwords

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Of course, to understand why a lack of password security is having such a detrimental impact on companies, it’s necessary to determine why employees aren’t implementing effective password security techniques.

Fear of forgetting passwords

Choosing a simple password means you’re more likely to remember it. However, it also means your account is easy to hack. When employees are worried about forgetting a password, they’re more likely to choose something that’s straightforward and easy to remember, but this can be catastrophic for your business.

Reusing passwords

Using the same password for multiple accounts may seem like an obvious option for people who don’t work in the tech industry. One individual could literally have hundreds of passwords to remember when you tally up their work and personal accounts, so using the same password for everything certainly makes things easier.

Of course, once one account has been breached, it won’t be long until the others follow. Hackers are all too aware that users frequently rely on the same password for everything, so it only takes one breach for a domino effect to occur.

Assuming they’re not at risk

For many people, the idea of a hacker wanting their information isn’t something they anticipate. If you don’t use an account often or it doesn’t hold your financial details, for example, you may assume that there’s not much danger of anyone stealing your information.

However, data is a valuable commodity and it can be traded for a considerable amount of money. Furthermore, once a hacker has gained access into one account, they typically find it easy to get into other accounts owned or operated by the same individual.

Using a default password

Some systems still provide users with a default password when they’re first setup. The login, ‘admin’ and a creative default password of, ‘password’, are the most well-known, and you’d be surprised how many people never bother to change them!

Default passwords can be attached to almost anything, including routers and networks, so it’s important that every device and/or account chooses a customized password as soon as a default one has been issued.

Lack of physical security

Even the strongest passwords lose their value when they’re made public. The best passwords tend to be fairly lengthy and contain a range of characters, without using specific words. As these can be tricky to remember, employees have a habit of writing them down and then sticking them to their monitor. The idea is that this makes it easy for them to log in quickly, but it also means that it’s easy for everyone else to log in to their accounts too!

Some people will also store passwords on their phones or even send an email to themselves containing the relevant information. Unless additional security measures and encryption has been activated, these aren’t secure places to store passwords either.

Bypassing two-factor authentication

Although relatively new to some people, two-factor authentication can add an extra layer of security to any account. Whilst two-factor authentication is now widely available, users often have to opt-in when they’re prompted to do so. Unfortunately, many people simply bypass this option and never activate the two-factor element of security. As a result, they’re reliant on standard security which is much easier to breach.

Implementing new password security protocols is important for your business, but it’s vital you get it right. Whether you’re an SMB or large company, we can help you to enhance password security and secure your company’s sensitive data. To find out more, contact NetStandard at 913-210-1968.

(Recommended Read: Recognizing and Reducing the Risks in Digital Environments)

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