Password Strength - More Important Than You Think
In today's digital world most offices run on computers. This is particularly true for accounting firms as much of the work generated must ultimately be reduced to forms that are filed with the IRS or state taxing authorities. While record-keeping is important for any small business it is crucial to the success of a small accounting firm. Most of those records are kept electronically on office computers which, in theory, are password-protected. The reality, however, is that most people pay very little attention to the strength of the passwords they choose. For an accounting firm, failing to properly password protect files can lead to a breach of confidential client financial information. That, in turn, can lead to failure of the business.
Typically, a password is required for everything you do on your computer. Hopefully, your client files, which contain sensitive and confidential information, are password-protected. Are these files really protected though? The odds are good that the answer to that question is "no".
Often, when you are requested to create a password the strength of the password you have chosen is indicated; however, most people pay very little attention to the strength level indicator. In fact, most people choose very simple passwords that are easy to remember. Often, these passwords have a personal meaning, such as the individual’s name, the name of a child, or their date of birth when a number is required. Both the simplicity of these passwords and the personal relevance makes it very easy for a hacker to breach the programs and files that are ostensibly protected by these passwords.
It is crucial for a small accounting firm to implement an office policy that requires the creation of strong, hard to breach, passwords on all office computers. It is not difficult to create a strong password. The reason most people do not do it is they are concerned they will not remember the password. This is also why people tend to use the same password for all password protected programs and files. Using the same password, however, means that a hacker need only breach one program and the hacker has access to everything on the computer.
Creating a strong password can be done using the following guidelines:
- Use at least ten characters
- Do not use your real name, user name, or name of your company
- Is not a duplicate for another password protected program/site/file
- Use a combination of upper case, lower case, numbers and special characters
Once the passwords are created, keeping track of them can be done the old-fashioned way by keeping them written down in a locked journal or notebook. There are also a number of services that offer password management. A simple Internet search for "password manager" will turn up a variety of options.
Clients trust you to keep their financial information safe. In the 21st century, guarding client information means creating strong passwords that serve as the gatekeepers for that information.