How To Select A Strong Password For Your Blog

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With the news this week that  hosting providers worldwide are reporting that they’ve been seeing systematic attempts to breach blogging platforms, particularly WordPress, it serves as a timely reminder to check your WordPress password and strengthen it if necessary.

The cybercriminals are using a method known as dictionary attack – a method of breaking into a password-protected computer or server by systematically entering every word in a dictionary as a password.

Check out this list from Brian Krebs of sample WordPress usernames and passwords used in this attack to see if you are compromising your password security.

The username admin, has been used in 90% of the login attempts, because it’s the default WordPress administrative username, so if you are still using this default username, change it right now.

Select A Strong Password

We strongly recommend updating your web application admin passwords to something very secure, if they’re not already. WordPress have advice on how to do this.

Think about what you are entering as your password. Does it contain any information people could easily guess? Does it contain a name or number that have strong connections to you? The name of a pet, family member, or favorite sports team? The date of an anniversary or birthday? It’s pretty likely that someone who knows you well enough or can find this information about you—even in your own blog posts—could then guess your password.

What NOT to Do When Selecting a Password

Don’t use single words or numbers. Avoid using anything found in a dictionary or simple numbers like a birthdate or a phone number. Even if the word is in a different language, it can be easy to guess or brute force.

Don’t use any personal information. Even when combined with letters and numbers, someone who knows you or can research you online can guess a password with this information easily.

Don’t just substitute look-alike numbers for letters in a word.  For example, don’t just change “Steve” to “St3v3″.

Don’t invert words. It’s not hard just to reverse a word and find a password. For instance, don’t change “password” to “drowssap”.

Don’t write down your password. If it’s written down somewhere and someone can find it, it’s not secure.

Don’t use the same password for every website you visit. If you use the same password everywhere, a single guess or defeat of the password can expose your information everywhere. By taking the time to separate your passwords, you can limit any damage caused by a break-in.

Basic Steps to Selecting a Strong Password

Make the password at least eight characters long. A longer password means it’s harder for someone to guess. 12 or 16 characters is even better.

Use a mix of upper and lower-case letters. Passwords are case-sensitive, so alternate your caps occasionally throughout the password to increase its strength.

Throw in some numbers—especially in the middle. Numbers at the beginning or end of a password are easier to guess or crack than those stuck right in the middle.

Throw in some symbols, punctuation, or spaces. You can use symbols like &, $, and % to greatly increase the strength of your password. Using spaces is also a great way to do this—and it can be easier to remember.

Use a password manager or generator. There are lots of free or low-cost options for password management. Two good examples are the open source application KeePass or a password generator like this one.

Consider changing your passwords regularly. The more often you change it to another strong password, the harder it will be for someone to guess or break it.

Don’t share your passwords. Even if you share your password with only one person, there is no telling who else might then gain access to it. If you suspect that someone else knows your password, you should change it immediately.

Don’t send your password to anyone in an email. WordPress.com staff will never ask you for your password.

Don’t save your passwords or use “Remember Me” options when using a computer that’s not yours. And make sure you log out or close your browser when you are done.

About

Marie Ennis-O’Connor BA, MIAPR, holds an Honours degree in History from University College Dublin. She is a graduate of the Irish Academy of Public Relations and has worked in a variety of PR roles over the past 12 years. Marie is editor of several award-winning blogs ranging from life sciences to health to business. She is a panel member of the newly established Bloggers International and is a regular contributor to Health Works Collective, an online community for thought leaders in international healthcare. She is a featured blogger on Webicina, an online service that provides curated medical social media resources in over 80 medical topics and over 17 languages, and has been awarded a top blogger accolade by Empowered Doctor.com and most inspiring writer by WegoHealth. Marie is also in demand as a trainer in social media marketing and travels the country teaching small business owners how to get online and maximise their online presence.

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  • http://www.thesmarttrain.com Elaine Rogers

    Hi Lorna, great post!
    I blogged about this recently on TweakYourBiz (http://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2012/08/16/password-protection-top-tips/), and have a great system in place (aside from the online tricks).

    I am of the understanding that I cannot change my username (but can change display name) for my wordpress.org blogs.
    I have read that it can be done in the editor of the theme (phpMyAdmin), but would not attempt this myself.

    I wonder can we get clarification on this? The google results I get, are 3 and 5 years old. It is ridiculous in 2013, that hackers need only find the password in 90% of WP.org blogs as most developers assign the default “admin” and then the owner cannot change it.

    • Lorna Sixsmith

      Hi Elaine,

      Marie wrote the post so I’ll get her to reply to you but to the best of my knowledge, for wp.org blogs, you can change the username on the web hosting.

      Lorna

  • Marie

    Hi Elaine You are right about not being able to change your username in wordpress.com. This advice refers to .org as Lorna points out. Thanks for highlighting it though – well spotted!

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