Gen Z: The Generation with the Worst Password Hygiene

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Generation Z’s poor password hygiene puts them at risk of identity theft.

According to a survey by password manager service LastPass, they aren’t the only ones. People of all ages tend to fall back on bad, albeit easy-to-remember, passwords. However, their research shows Generation Z — born between 1997 and 2012 — are the least likely to care about making good passwords.

By no coincidence, they are also the generation most likely to be scammed, according to the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA). Despite their global reputation as the tech-savvy, chronically online generation, Generation Z engages in digital behaviour that puts their financial information at risk.

Proper password hygiene is critical at any age, but especially for Zoomers. Many of them are just starting college or beginning their careers. It’s a pivotal time in their financial lives as they open credit cards, lines of credit, and personal loans online.

Why is Password Hygiene Important?

A good password defends your financial accounts — whether it’s a simple checking account or an online direct deposit loan profile.

Choosing a strong one keeps brute force attackers out of your banking or online loan accounts. This way, you can reap the benefits of direct deposit loans and a safe checking account without worrying about exposing the personal information these accounts contain.

A brute force attack consists of a hacker trying to guess your login credentials. The trial-by-error process doesn’t have a lot of finesse. Much like its name suggests, it involves someone testing probable combinations until they break into your account.

Most brute force attacks don’t spend their precious time hand-typing passwords. They have better things to do than inputting possible passwords the slow way. Professional brute-forcers rely on automated scripts or bots to test passwords at lightning-fast speeds.

Automated brute force attacks test roughly 350 billion passwords per second, making it an efficient way to break into someone’s account.

What Happens When Brute Force Attack Works?

A hacker has reason to celebrate when they successfully brute-force their way into your account, especially if it’s your banking, credit card, or online loan account.

Right away, they have access to these accounts and the money they contain. They can use your line of credit to ring up a huge tab or withdraw cash from your checking account.

They also have the keys to your finances: contact details, account numbers, Social Security Number, employment history, etc. All these financial profiles hold personal information that fraudsters can hijack to open new accounts in your name.

They might apply for payday loans or cash advances they do not intend to repay. And once they go overdue, payday lenders will come after the name attached to the loan: yours.

While you may dispute these charges, this process can take a long time during which your credit score may suffer.

How to Stop Brute Force Attacks with Good Password Hygiene

While password-cracking cyphers work fast, they aren’t unstoppable. They meet their match when facing down strong passwords.

Long, complicated passwords take too long to hack, even with the help of powerful bots. You should follow these simple password hygiene tips:

  • Lower and Upper Letters: Switch up your cases, using both lower- and upper-case letters. While most password standards require one of each, you should alternate between the two frequently.
  • Special Characters: The special characters that share the upper number buttons on your keyboard add dimension to your password. Be wary of relying on leet speak when adding these characters to your password. Most hackers know to sub symbols for numbers and letters, so it may not be as secure as you think.
  • Numbers: Like symbols, numbers beef up your password, especially when you don’t use dates.

Go Long: Evidence Shows Length is Important

Next to the characters you use, length is a very important feature of your password. According to Hive System, a website security company, the longer your password is, the longer it takes for fraudsters to hack.

A 13-character long password that satisfies the list above would take ChatGPT hardware 47 years to crack! Bumping your length to 17 characters would mean AI would need 79 billion years before it brute forces your password.

The Strongest Passwords Are Random

Passwords with predictable combinations, even long ones, are easier to hack. That’s why security experts and financial institutions alike warn against using simple words or personal information to inspire your passwords.

Never use the following details when making a password:

  • Important dates, like birthdays, anniversaries, or historical events.
  • Meaningful locations, like your hometown or alma mater.
  • Names of your family or pets.
  • Common leet speak substitutions, like “1” for the letter “i” or “$” for “s”.
  • The typical responses to social media chain letters.

While these pieces of info may be easier to remember, they’re easier to hack. Instead, you should randomize your password completely to create a string of unplanned letters, numbers, and symbols.

Don’t Reuse Passwords

Let’s face it, once you come up with a 15-character long password that contains a random assortment of letters, symbols, and numbers, you’ll have on your hands something that looks like a cat walked on your keyboard.

A key-smash password can be hard to remember. So, you might reuse it for every online account you have once you create a strong one.

However, strong passwords lose their efficacy the more you use them, and it has nothing to do with you. Unfortunately, financial institutions can be involved in data breaches despite investing in enterprise security and other cybersecurity tools and protocols.

If a bank or online lender’s data breach exposes your login credentials, a hacker has your email address and your password for that account. They also gain access to any other account that uses that combination.

Overuse makes a bad thing worse. Your exposure goes from just one affected account to all of them.

Gen Z Need Better Passwords

Password hygiene is important for everyone, but studies show Gen Z is the worst culprit for reusing weak passwords.

As they enter the workforce and start managing their money seriously, now is the perfect time for Zoomers to work on their password hygiene.

Not all passwords are easy to predict; long, randomized passwords with numbers, symbols, and letters can withstand automated brute force attacks.

Stick with this guide when you open a bank account or online loan account, do your taxes, or start investing. A strong password will safeguard your personal information from hackers.

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