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Securing the cloud: The art of developing strong passwords

October 15, 2014 • Security

Daniel Kamau Microsoft SMS&P Public Sector Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa. (Image Source: Microsoft).

Daniel Kamau Microsoft SMS&P Public Sector Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa. (Image Source: Microsoft).

Imagine if, within the space of a few hours, all your accounts in the cloud got hacked and you lost all your personal documents. That is exactly what happened to John, who, in keeping with the technological advancements, started saving all his personal information in the cloud. But one day he woke up to find that not only were his documents missing but his social media profile was compromised, his photographs were stolen, and all his friends and followers were getting lewd and racist messages – supposedly from him.

In a matter of hours, John’s friends informed him that they had seen his wedding pictures on some photographer’s website and image of his children were on an unknown kiddie clothing website. To make matters worse, John could not file a law suit against the owners of these websites because they had bought the images, hence covered their bases in making sure that their IP was protected.

This above example is increasingly becoming a reality for a number of individuals globally. No longer does it matter that an individual is not a celebrity; malicious entities (hackers) are just looking for a weak target, and John made it easy for them because he was using the same password across all his accounts – be it mails or social media profiles.

Passwords provide the first line of defence against unauthorised online account access. Using two-factor authentication increases this defence. The stronger your password, the more protected your accounts will be from hackers and malicious software.

What makes a password strong?

– It has at least eight characters.
– It does not contain your user name, real name or company name.
– It does not contain a complete word.
– It is significantly different from previous passwords.
– It contains characters from each of the following four categories:
– Uppercase letters
– Lowercase letters
– Numbers
– Symbols

As stated in the ‘Cloud computing in Africa – Situations and perspectives’ research by the Telecommunications Development Sector, Africa is a continent with numerous developing economies and this means that the countries are most suited for extensive adoption of cloud computing. Even individuals on the streets using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are interacting with the cloud, meaning that malicious entities / hackers have a very large unsuspecting pool to play with.

Furthermore, a new study by the National University of Singapore (NUS), found that Middle East and African consumers will pay $2 billion on security threats and costly computer fixes stemming from malware or pirated software.

Technology today is more advanced than yesterday; we must make use of the technology available to us so that we make our lives easier. Just like we make sure that there are multiple layers of security – password, biometrics, etc. when either purchasing a safe for our homes or paying for a safety deposit box in a bank. We need to apply the same principle to our documents saved in the cloud so that the battle to stop malicious entities is reduced, if not stopped in its tracks.

By Daniel Kamau Microsoft SMS&P Public Sector Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa

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