10 hacks for Safer Cyber Citizenship

10 hacks for Safer Cyber Citizenship

Posted on October 03, 2017

Chances are cyber criminal already have all your personal data. Now is the time to up your game with this series of 10 Hacks for Safer Cyber Citizenship.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and it couldn’t come too soon.  On the back of the announcement that 145.5 million people lost all of their personal data including social security numbers, birthdates and addresses thanks to Equifax, we all need to ratchet up our online security game.  So, this month, we'll do a series of posts that will take you well down the path to being a cyber super guru.

Hack #1 Use the Force (of Math)

Mathematics is a crazy thing and some really simple knowledge can go a long way to improving your safety. There is this little trick of exponentials you can use to really improve your security. The power of exponents can best be explained by an old math trick.

Start the month by putting one penny in a piggy bank. Each day double yesterday's contribution. On the second day you add 2¢, the third you add 4¢, etc.  After one week, you have a total savings of 32¢. Sounds boring and our simple minds would extrapolate that at this rate, we might have saved a few dollars after a month. But in fact, after 30 days you would have banked \$2,684,354.56.

Now in reality, on the 29th you’d have to come up with over \$1,300,000 to put in the piggy bank and you would need a pretty big piggy bank to pull this trick off.  But the trick shows the power of exponents and here we are only using an exponent of 2.

Now let's apply this trick to passwords. If you use only numbers for a password you have an exponent of 10. Use the lower-case alphabet and you have an exponent of 26. And if you use symbols, numbers, upper and lower case alphabet characters, you have a much larger exponent. That is the math part.

Now for the computer part. You see, cybercriminals have tools that can generate guesses at a password really fast. The more complex your password, and the longer it is, the longer you would survive one of these password breakers. It is estimated that a 4-digit numeric PIN can be hacked by a computer in 22 milliseconds. A 6-character alphabetic password would only last 21 seconds. Using 6 characters that include symbols, numbers, upper and lower case letters raises that to 11 hours.

But hackers are patient and 11 hours isn’t very long for a computer. Here is where the power of exponents come in.  Just add four more characters and it would take 91 millennia to hack your password. That means, your 10-character password is un-hackable.

Check back in a few days for another hack that will put you on the path to becoming a super secure cyber citizen.

Kevin Conklin

Kevin joined Ipswitch in 2015 and leads the company’s product and content marketing practices. He is widely recognized for his product marketing accomplishments in information technologies. He is a serial startup executive having played instrumental roles in the success of such companies as for Prelert, VKernel, Mazu Networks and Smarts, Inc. and has been instrumental to the success of these IT management technology companies. Kevin is also the co-host of the PICNIC Podcast live show (https://picnic-podcast.com/), sharing experiences and best practices, providing a voice of expertise, and educating IT professionals with the latest technology challenges.