Passwords get hacked in five basic ways, writes Thomas Baekdal in a blog post on the topic:
- The hacker asks for the password through a scam of some sort.
- The hacker guesses. People like to use simple things they remember, like their birthday. That makes it easier to hack.
- The hacker does a brute force attack. A hacker simply attempts to sign-in using different passwords one at the time.
- The hacker attempts to sign-in using a list of common words.
- The hacker uses the dictionary approach by using the full dictionary of words to try and access the network.
IT security professionals encourage people to use complex passwords. Those are difficult to break. The problem is people write those passwords down on pieces of paper. That's not very secure.
But what you really need are passwords that you can memorize but are also difficult enough that it's not worth the time for the hacker to try to crack them.
Using more than one common word would take a hacker months to guess. Three common words and it's nearly impossible to crack.
It would take:
- 1,163,859 years using a brute-force method
- 2,537 years using a common word attack
- 39,637,240 years using a dictionary attack
It is ten times more secure to use "this is fun" as your password, than "J4fS<2".
Now what can the provider do to make the network more secure?
1. Add a time-delay between sign-in attempts. Instead of allowing people to sign-in again and again and again. Add a 5 second delay between each attempt.
It is short enough to not be noticeable (it takes longer than 5 seconds to realize that you have tried a wrong password, and to type in a new one). And, it forces the hacker to only be able make sign-in requests 1 every 5 seconds (instead of 100 times per second).
2. Add a penalty period if a person has typed a wrong password more than - say - 10 times - of something like 1 hour. Again, this seriously disrupts the hacking script from working effectively.
By adding the time delay, the provider now protects the user and rewards the one who uses the method for stringing together multiple words.
Passwords are notoriously easy to crack. But it does not have to mean remembering strings of random letters and numbers. As Baekdal points out, a hacker can hack the password "alpine fun" in only 2 months if he is able to attack your server 100 times per second. But, with the penalty period and the 5 second delay, the same password can suddenly sustain an attack for 1,889 years.