Financial security comes in many forms. When you’re first looking for a personal loan online, it starts with a deep dive into the products you might qualify for today. By comparing lenders, rates, and terms, you can zero in on an option that fits your budget.
Once you get past this initial research stage, and a bank or online direct lender grants you funds, you’ll enter a new phase of financial well-being: account security.
Most banks and online direct lenders have you create a profile to go along with your loan, and you’ll need to provide a password before you can go any further.
It doesn’t matter what types of personal online loans you wind up using. From cash advances and installment loans to lines of credit, these online loans need strong, impenetrable passwords. Without them, you’re leaving your finances vulnerable to brute force attacks.
So, what do you need to thwart fraudsters from cracking your password? Before answering that question, let’s look at brute force attacks in detail so that you understand how they work.
What is a Brute Force Attack?
A brute force attack is an old yet effective method of stealing your info. It involves guessing your login info on a trial-and-error basis, inputting probable character combinations until landing on the right ones.
Slowly punching in combination after combination sounds too labor-intensive and downright boring to be worth it. But no hacker is personally typing in each attempt; they’re using complex scripts to do the dirty work for them.
Automating this step means a bot rapidly inputs its guesses at a speed that no human could match. One security expert has created a computer cluster that can crack an 8-character password in fewer than six hours.
Thanks to its simplicity and speed, brute force is a common method of stealing information. According to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigation Report, nearly 90% of all breaches involve brute force or stolen credentials.
Your Personal Information Motivates Hackers
There are a lot of reasons why a fraudster employs the brute force method, but their primary motivation is to obtain personal information. They gain the keys to your financial house once they uncover your login credentials.
You can probably tell this is bad on a few accounts. Being a victim of these attacks could mean any of the following scenarios:
- Your Online Loan is Compromised: Most immediately, they’ll have the login info for your online loan account.
- Access to Contact Information: Your online loan profile might contain all the data they need to impersonate you on the web. Many hackers use stolen information to fill out payday cash advance applications under someone else’s name.
- Multiple Accounts Endangered: Hackers could access other financial accounts if you reused the same email and password combination.
How to Stay Strong Against Brute Force
Although a brute force attack is a genuine threat to your financial security, you aren’t helpless against these automated hacking machines. You can protect your information by being smart about your password. Here are some tips to help you create an unbeatable password for your online loan account.
Avoid the Clichés
Have you ever thought about using a password like 123456 or Password? These easy-to-remember passwords are some of the first combos a brute hacker will attempt, and they take less than a second to crack.
Don’t Use Personal Information
Next to popular combos like “123456,” the next-most guessable kind of password relates to your life. Many people wind up using things like important family birthdays, pet names, or locations.
The problem with using this kind of information is that you’ve probably already exposed it on the web. That picture of champagne flutes on Instagram lets your followers know when your anniversary is. Your Facebook profile lists your birthday, hometown, and alma mater. And ancestry apps publicly share your family tree with all the big dates and locations available to anyone with an account.
Go Long or Go Home
Long passwords are more robust than their shorter counterparts. But just how long does it have to be? Some experts set 15 characters as the bare minimum.
Mix Things Up
Out of those 15 characters, you should be using at least one of each of the following:
- Upper-case letters
- Lower-case letters
What About Passphrases?
Let’s say, after reading this article, you set your online loan password to [email protected]!&. This technically follows the rules set out above, but it could still leave you exposed. That’s because this kind of password isn’t as unpredictable as you might think.
As a single word that uses common leetspeak substitutions, [email protected]!& might be stronger than 123456, but it’s still vulnerable.
Some experts (including the FBI) recommend trading in basic passwords for passphrases to solve this security problem. A passphrase is a string of random words that might be more successful at keeping out hackers because of its length.
A passphrase would look something like this:
According to Cornell University, increasing the number of random words in a string like this is a more effective line of defence than adding numbers and symbols to complicate something like Macronutrient!&. But don’t worry if you still don’t get it. The popular web comic XKCD demonstrates why passphrases work here in six frames.
What Will You Choose?
Now that you know how brute force attacks happen, and what makes passwords vulnerable, you’re in a better position to create a strong, uncrackable password or passphrase.
Which one you end up choosing depends on your preferences, but whatever you do, keep it unique. You don’t want to reuse a password for any other account — whether it’s another installment loan or mobile game app.
And if, after following this guide, you wind up with something you can’t remember, research password managers. These encrypted services keep all your hard-to-remember passwords in one place, so you only have to remember the login to this account to access everything.