Although we’ve made leaps and bounds in the world of technology over the decades, the same can’t be said for the way many individuals and organizations still use and manage their passwords. There’s a significant knowledge gap both among organizations and consumers of just how critical a strong and secure password is. 

Proper password management is paramount when it comes to reducing the chances of your business falling victim to cyber attacks—which are growing increasingly prevalent across all industries around the globe today. 

The use of passwords is a necessary function of any organization’s security infrastructure—it’s how employees gain access to the company network, retrieve sensitive information, and accomplish their everyday tasks. Unfortunately, cybercriminals typically only need a single opening to gain access to entire systems of confidential organizational data. After all, 80% of hacking-related breaches are caused by stolen and reused credentials. The data below sheds some concerning light on the reality of today’s password hygiene: 

  1. 4 in 10 of Americans have had their personal data compromised online. 
  2. Of the 40% of Americans who have had their personal data compromised online, 47% lost money as a result. 
  3. Only 45% of Americans say they would change their password after being hacked. 
  4. The total cost of a data breach in America was $8.64 million in 2020.
  5. 80% of hacking-related data breaches are linked to passwords. 
  6. Brute-force hacking tools are sold on criminal marketplaces for just $4 on average. 
  7. There has been a 24% increase in the number of data breaches caused by malicious attacks since 2014. 
  8. 16% of malicious data breaches in 2020 were caused by a vulnerability in third-party software. 
  9. 53% of malicious data breaches were financially motivated in 2020. 
  10. 14% of malicious data breaches in 2020 were caused by phishing.

This data makes it hard to ignore the fact that organizations’ password security efforts are falling short—and at a steep cost. With cybercrime on the rise and data stealing methods growing more sophisticated, the consequences of inadequate security measures and poor password hygiene will only continue to grow as well. It is now more critical than ever that organizations rethink the strength of their security systems and take it as an opportunity to strengthen their business

In order to become more resilient against data theft and the challenges presented by the savvy cyber criminals of today, a massive corporate shift in behavior and practice is necessary. Here are some strategies organizations should consider to ensure a stronger security framework.

Use Complex Passwords

While this might seem obvious, sometimes the only line of defense that stands between highly sensitive data and a cybercriminal is a simple password. By enforcing company-wide password complexity requirements, organizations can significantly reduce the chances of a criminal attack. At the very least, all passwords should use a combination of numbers, letters, punctuation and capitalization and be at least 13 characters long.

Implement Mandatory Password Resets

It’s not uncommon for individuals to resist regularly resetting their passwords, but the failure to do so creates one of the easiest targets for hackers to take advantage of. To increase the effectiveness of your organization’s security measures, consider implementing mandatory password resets across all departments for all team members.

Assess Team and Company Compliance

Even the most robust and thorough security measures are useless if they aren’t put into action from the top down within the company. Tracking your team’s compliance with organizational password security policies and practices is an important step in ensuring your cybersecurity efforts are air tight and functioning to the fullest degree. 

Prioritize Security Training 

2021 has revealed that data privacy and proper cybersecurity efforts will no longer exist as a single component of a general security program, but will transform into an entire program of its own. Regulatory compliance requirements are on the rise, and companies must invest more time and energy into company-wide data security efforts going forward than in years past. An effective way to do this is by implementing security training programs among teams—a great step towards making cybersecurity a more integral part of entire organizational cultures. 

Cybersecurity can no longer be ignored as we continue to navigate today’s expanding technology landscape and the growing threats that exist within it. By committing to creating and implementing comprehensive password security programs and policies, you can create a stronger defense for your organization’s assets. For a deeper look into proper password security habits, check out this visual guide by Panda Security below.