Best Password Security Practices

The Guide to Password Security
(and Why You Should Care)

Find out how your password security can be compromised, and
how to create and manage secure passwords.


Passwords — especially those not supported by two-step verification — are your last lines of defense against prying eyes. This guide will help you understand how those passwords are exposed, and what you can do to keep them locked down.


Before we dive into the how-tos of creating secure passwords, it’s important to understand why you need a supersecure password to begin with. After all, you might be thinking, “Who would want to hack my accounts?”

There are a few ways your account passwords can be compromised.

1. Someone’s out to get you. There are many people who might want to take a peek into your personal life. If these people know you well, they might be able to guess your e-mail password and use password recovery options to access your other accounts.

2. You become the victim of a brute-force attack. Whether a hacker attempts to access a group of user accounts or just yours, brute-force attacks are the go-to strategy for cracking passwords. These attacks work by systematically checking all possible passphrases until the correct one is found. If the hacker already has an idea of the guidelines used to create the password, this process becomes easier to execute.

3. There’s a data breach. Every few months it seems another huge company reports a hacking resulting in millions of people’s account information being compromised. And with the recent Heartbleed bug, many popular websites were affected directly.


Although data breaches are out of your control, it’s still imperative to create passwords that can withstand brute-force attacks and relentless frenemies. Avoiding both types of attacks is dependent on the complexity of your password.

Ideally, each of your passwords would be at least 16 characters, and contain a combination of numbers, symbols, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and spaces. The password would be free of repetition, dictionary words, usernames, pronouns, IDs, and any other predefined number or letter sequences.

Related Tutorials

Mastering the art of passwords

The 10 password commandments

How to check password strength

The security-savvy community evaluates password strength in terms of “bits,” where the higher the bits, the stronger the password. An 80-bit password is more secure than a 30-bit password, and has a complex combination of the aforementioned characters. As a result, an 80-bit password would take years longer to crack than a 30-bit password.

Ideal passwords, however, are a huge inconvenience. How can we be expected to remember 80-bit (12-character) passwords for each of our various Web accounts? That’s where many people turn to password managers like LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password.


If you follow one of the most important commandments of passwords, you know that you absolutely must have a unique password for every service you use. The logic is simple: if you recycle the same password (or a variation of it), and a hacker cracks one account, he or she will be able to access the rest of your accounts.

Obviously, you can’t be expected to memorize dozens of complicated, 16-character-long passwords.

This guide thoroughly explores the different options for managing your passwords, including things like storing them on a USB drive, and even writing them down. Although it’s ultimately up to you, he presents a strong argument for using the ol’ sticky note method.

Using a Password Manager

Password managers store all of your passwords for you and fill out your log-in forms so that you don’t have to do any memorizing. If you want supersecure passwords for your online accounts (which is recommended), but you don’t want to memorize them all (also recommended), this is the way to go.

There are many options available, but a few crowd favorites are LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password. All three password managers essentially work the same way. There is a desktop program (or mobile app), which you’ll use to manage your passwords. Then, there’s a browser extension that automatically logs you into accounts as you browse the Web.

If you haven’t yet started using one, let me preemptively say: you’re welcome. Password managers are huge headache-savers, and you’ll wonder how you ever commanded the Web without one.

The tiny caveat is that you’ll still have to memorize one thing: Your master password. This unlocks all your other passwords. Make your master password extra-secure by composing it of at least 12 characters to ensure that it’s not vulnerable to any brute-force attacks. LastPass and other password managers like Dashlane and 1Password also have mobile apps, so you can easily access your passwords when you’re signing into accounts on your phone or tablet.

It’s worth noting, however, that just like any software, password managers are vulnerable to security breaches. In 2011, LastPass experienced a security breach, but users with strong master passwords were not affected.


Author Information

Sharon Profis (@sharonprofis)

January 1, 2016



April 2016 Tech Tips – Spring Cleaning for Your PC!

Here are your Tech Tips for the month of April to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

Springtime is here! While doing your Spring cleaning this season, don’t forget to include your PC. Many would be surprised to see the amount of dust and dirt that your computer can acquire in one year, as well as the long-term effects if ignored. Here are a few tips for polishing up your PC’s hardware:

  • Your hands are all over your keyboard and mouse all day, so it’s inevitable for them to harvest germs. Before cleaning your keyboard and mouse make sure that they are unplugged, and be sure to remove the batteries if they are wireless. Your keyboard has many small cracks and crevices, so before cleaning it, it is always a good idea to turn it upside down and attempt to shake out any debris. A can of compressed air can also be helpful for getting those hard to reach places in your keyboard. Following this, both devices can be cleaned with disinfectant wipes, and then dried with a microfiber cloth to polish.
  • You may not realize it, but your monitors are extremely sensitive. While cleaning your monitor screen, never use a purely alcohol-based product, as this can potentially strip some of the monitor’s coating. To avoid causing scratches on the screen, never use a standard cloth or paper towel while cleaning – always use a microfiber cloth.
  • Cleaning out the internal hardware of your computer is just as important as cleaning out the external, and it’s easier than you think. It is recommended to clean the dust out of your tower, primarily your fan, at least once every eight months using a can of compressed air. To do this, first make sure your computer is off and has had plenty of time to cool down. Next find an open, well-ventilated space for yourself, and gently open the tower casing. Using short, strong pumps of air, blow the dust off of your hardware. While cleaning your fan, be sure to hold it in place to avoid damage from spinning it the wrong way.

We hope with these tips, you won’t run from your PC Spring cleaning, and will have it looking like new in no time! The more effort you put into loving your computer, the more it will love you back!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

January 2016 Tech Tips – New Year, New Passwords!

Here are your Tech Tips for the month of January to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help. 

It’s a new year, time to re-vamp things! Why not make strengthening your online security a priority? As cyber-criminal activity evolves at the same rate as our technology, it is never a bad idea to change up your passwords. Below we have highlighted the most important things to keep in mind when updating your passwords, and maintaining your security: 

  • Never give your password to anyone. One of the best things about a brand new password, is the peace of mind in knowing that only you have it.
  • Use a minimum of 8-12 characters, and be sure to include numbers, symbols, and capital letters.
  • Don’t fall for phishing attacks! Be extremely cautious before clicking on a link that asks you to log in, change your password, or provide any other personal information.
  • Use multi-factor authentication when it is available. Many websites offer an option that requires you to further verify your identity after logging in from an unrecognized device.
  • Don’t use one password for everything!
  • Utilize a password manager. Keeping track of multiple passwords can get confusing, using a secure password manager is a great solution for this problem. Check out some of the best ones currently on the market, here.

These are some of the most basic, yet important, tips to remember for staying safe and creating new passwords. For more, check out what TIME Magazine has deemed as the top 25 worst and most commonly used passwords of 2015, here.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions! 


December 2015 Tech Tips – Outlook Calendar Tricks

Here are your Tech Tips for the month of December to help you be more productive! As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

Your Microsoft Outlook Calendar; it stresses you out, yet you can’t live without it. Before entering a new year, take a look at these incredibly handy tips and shortcuts for your Outlook Calendar, and take one step closer to making 2016 your most productive year yet!


Opening the Calendar in a New Window
    Sometimes bouncing back and forth between the Mail and Calendar tabs can get                   repetitive and frustrating, especially when making an entry on the calendar. To open the     calendar in a separate window, hold down the Shift Key and right-click on the Calendar       tab.

     Dragging & Dropping
     You most likely already know that you can rearrange things on your Outlook Calendar          by dragging and dropping. What you may not know, is that while using multiple                    windows (using tip above) you have the ability to drag items from your Inbox to your            Calendar, which will then auto-schedule an appointment using the information in the           subject and body of the email.

Color Categorizing
Adding color categories to calendar appointments allows you to scan, search, and                  visually associate similar items with total ease – AND it makes your calendar easy on the      eyes! Once your categories are set up, simply click on the Categorize button when
     scheduling an appointment, and select which category you would like to use.

We hope you’ll welcome the New Year with your most tech-savvy foot forward, and that these tips for using your Outlook Calendar will aid you in making 2016 one of your most efficient years!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

November 2015 Tech Tips – Creating an Outlook Contact Group

Here’s your quick Tech Tip for the month of November to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

Microsoft Outlook is by far the most widely-used business email program. With countless features and customization capabilities, Outlook provides everything needed for high efficiency. One Outlook tool that is frequently used in our office, is the ability to create Contact Groups/Distribution Lists. Creating a Contact Group can be done in a matter of minutes, and can save you worlds of time when trying to send emails to specific sets of contacts. In order to create one in Outlook 2013, use the following instructions:


On the Navigation Bar, select “People

Under “My Contacts“, select where you would like to add the group (“Contacts” is            usually pre-selected)

Under “Home“, select “New Contact Group

Type the name you would like to choose for the group in the “Name” bar

Click the “Add Members” icon

From here, you will be prompted to select which of your Outlook contacts you would            like to add to this group


Using a Contact Group/Distribution list makes sending team emails simple, and ensures that no one is forgotten! For a quick refresher on how to send an email to a Contact Group, click here.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!



October 2015 Tech Tips – What to do with that Windows Key?!

Here’s your quick Tech Tip for the month of October to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

The Windows Key – the key to unlocking many useful, hidden tricks in Microsoft Windows. Disguised with a flag icon, and banished to the lower corners of your keyboard, this button is often under-utilized considering the helpful shortcuts it can provide. We’ve highlighted the best Windows Key shortcuts below, as well as which version of Windows is required for each:


Windows 7 & Up
Win + D: Hides all windows, hit again to restore
Win + E: Opens Windows Explorer
Win + R: Opens the Run window
Win + L: Locks the Desktop
Win + Up: Maximizes current window
Win + Down: Minimizes current window
Win + Left: Docks current window to the left
Win + Right: Docks current window to the right
Win + #: Switches to the corresponding program in taskbar

Windows 10
Win + A: Opens the Action Center
Win + C: Activates Cortana listening mode
Win + I: Opens the Settings tab
Win + Tab: Opens the Task View, shows all open programs, allowing an easy switch


We hope you’ll find these shortcuts helpful! Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions! 




IT Direct – Lunch & Learn Relax Webinar: Microsoft Excel

We have two Microsoft Excel webinars for you to review and learn from.

Here’s a recording of our Lunch & Learn Relax Webinar: Microsoft Excel Basics

Here’s a recording of our Lunch & Learn Relax Webinar: Advanced Microsoft Excel


September 2015 Tech Tips – Windows 10 Woes

Here’s your quick Tech Tip for the month of September to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

The Windows 10 upgrade was officially released in July; and ever since, Microsoft has been in the hot seat for many of the new privacy features. But what about all of the minor changes that came with the upgrade? How do we fix those? This month we’re going to highlight a few of the most common Windows 10 annoyances, and instruct you on how to fix them!

Stop the Forced Restarts
With the Windows 10 upgrade, the option to download your system updates manually and reboot at your own convenience has been revoked. Luckily, there is a way to schedule your reboots to a time of your choosing. 
Settings>Update & Security>Windows Update>Advanced Options>Choose How Updates Are Installed>Notify to Schedule

Reset the Default Programs
Microsoft replaced Internet Explorer with the Microsoft Edge browser, and you’ve probably noticed that they replaced your default browser with Edge as well. If you chose Express Settings with your upgrade, here’s how to reset your default programs.
Control Panel>Programs>Default Programs>Set Your Default Program 

Turn off Cortana
Cortana has been at the core of the Windows privacy issues. If you wish to stop Cortana from indexing all of your personal information, disabling her is quite simple.
Cortana Icon>Left Option Pane>Notebook Icon>Settings>Switch Off “Cortana can give you suggestions, ideas….”

We hope you’ll find these tips useful for any desktop woes you may have!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions! 



Restore Business Critical Data & Applications in Minutes

D2 D3

On any given day, without warning, business operations can come to a screeching halt due to hardware or software failure, cybercrime, human error, or inclement weather. 81% of these outages last 1-3 days. Can you really afford that kind of lost productivity, revenue, and customer goodwill?
Smart SMBs today are utilizing cost-efficient business continuity and disaster recovery solutions that require no internal infrastructure or IT staff.

Download our E-Guide “Staying Alive – The Definitive Guide to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery to learn how you too can leverage industry leading backup solutions to restore business critical data and applications in MINUTES – not hours, days, weeks or months. You’ve got no time for the cost of downtime!

August 2015 Tech Tips – Desktop Icons & Shortcuts

Here’s your quick Tech Tip for the month of August to help you be more productive. As always, reach out anytime! We are here to help.

Sometimes it’s the little things that slip our minds! For example, creating a desktop shortcut (icon) for the program of your choice. It’s one of the simplest tasks, yet can take a bit of brain power to figure out if you happen to forget how to do it. This month, we’re going to highlight a few desktop tips and tricks that can make all the difference in the way you use your computer!

Creating a Desktop Icon
If there is a program that you would like to be easily accessibile, creating a desktop icon shortcut is simple and takes under 10 seconds.
Start Menu > Find the Program of Choice > Right-Click > “Send To” > “Desktop (create shortcut)”

Auto-Arrange Or Sort-By Icons
If your desktop is cluttered with many programs or documents, a quick way to re-gain your organization is to auto-arrange or sort them! These functions can also be done with a few clicks of the mouse. 
Right-Click > View > Select by Size, Grid Alignment, or Auto-Arrange
Right-Click > Sort By > Select by Name, Size, Item Type, or Date Modified 

Creating a Hotkey
A hotkey allows you to open a program by using your keyboard alone, with a combination of keys (such as “Ctrl+Alt+Del”). This can save a tremendous amount of time, and is extremely simple to set up.
Start Menu > Find the Program of Choice > Right-Click > Properties > Enter Desired Combination in “Shortcut Key” Box

We hope you’ll find these tips useful for any desktop woes you may have!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!