Wednesday is World Password Day, a holiday/public service announcement created to remind millions of internet users to protect themselves online. Created by Intel Security and supported by over 170 organizations, including the likes of Microsoft, Toshiba, and Dell, it asks Internet users to do just one thing: change your passwords.
Robert Siciliano, online security expert to McAfee, told The Wire that the concept for World Password Day came from a brainstorming session for Intel's security education program: "We found that a lot of users are so overwhelmed about the amount of things they 'should' be doing to improve their digital security that they end up doing nothing. So rather than give a laundry list of security advice, we wanted to find one security improvement that people could do in less than five minutes: change their passwords."
Last year, over a million passwords were changed thanks to the World Password Day project. Siciliano hopes to surpass that this year, especially after the revealing of some major risks in the past few months; mainly Heartbleed, which most regular people ignored.
"2013 saw some of the worst data breaches in history," says Siciliano, "and 2014, with the discovery of Heartbleed, seems likely the surpass it. Because we don't learn about data breaches for months, sometimes years, after they occur, changing your password every so often protects you from hackers who are secretly selling your website logins on the Internet without your knowledge."
The World Password Day website created a game targeting the most commonly used, and therefore hacked, passwords. If you see one of your own passwords falling down the screen waiting to be shot down, you know it's too common to keep and its time to change your password.
Some of the most commonly hacked passwords are things like consecutive numbers, names, any term or phrase you commonly use on social media, and any variation of your own name.
While remembering obscure passwords can be a pain, there are a variety of secure services that do the remembering for you. LastPass, Dashlane and Mcafee LiveSafe are a few of the most user friendly and save you a lot of hassle and heartbreak down the road.
Beyond using safe passwords, you can also increase your cyber safety by using an antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing programs, and maintaining a firewall. But if you do nothing else, go change your password on your most important accounts.