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How long would it take hackers to crack your passwords?

Just how safe are your passwords? Get tips from cyber security experts.
Credit: olly - stock.adobe.com

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Think about this for a second: most people have 70-80 passwords. That’s according to research by the password manager NordPass. While having dozens and dozens of passwords to keep up with can be a pain in the you-know-what, keeping your accounts safe is one of the most important things you can do.

From in-home cameras to your social media accounts to bank accounts, hackers want to access them. So, what exactly can you do to keep your accounts safe? According to cyber security experts, it starts and ends with one thing: the strength of your passwords.

“The longer the password, the better. Even if it’s just a bunch of random words, it’s more secure than using alpha-numeric, special characters and everything else,” said David Oberle, Cyber Security expert at H2L Solutions

To illustrate the fact that longer passwords are exponentially more secure, check out this chart by Hive Systems. It details how fast it would take sophisticated hackers to crack your password, depending on what you included. For example, if you had a 10-digit password that only was made up of numbers, hackers could instantly crack it. Compare that to if your 10-digit password had numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and symbols, it would take 5 years. Make that a 14-digit password with that combination, and it would take hackers 200 million years to break it.

Bruce Young, from Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, added this piece of advice. “One of the best ways to create a password is to actually create a passphrase,” Young said.

Mixing a phrase with numbers and unique characters can help avoid what is referred to as “dictionary attacks.” That’s a way to hack into someone’s device by systematically entering every word in the dictionary before landing on the correct one. Also, never use the same password for more than one account. In other words, use unique passwords for each account you have.

Another way to help is by using a password manager. 

“All your passwords are centrally stored so the only complex password you need to remember is the password you need to get into your password manager,” said Dr. Andy Green, Information Security Educator and Researcher at Kennesaw State University.

How often should you change your passwords? According to Young, that depends on what they are used for, but for bank and social media accounts, he says changing them about every 30 days is best.

Note: Information from stories from WPMT, WZDX, and WXIA was used in this report.