Each of your employees likely uses dozens of passwords for work-related devices, software, and accounts. Many, if not all, are probably easily hacked. Weak passwords are one of the easiest ways for hackers to steal your valuable business data. If your employees aren’t using strong passwords, they give hackers many opportunities to compromise your data.
Digital security has become a top priority for businesses. This article will teach you how to protect your business by creating a strong employee password policy. It covers:
- What a password policy is — and why you need one
- Top tips for creating and implementing a password policy for your business
- Additional ways to protect your company from cyber crimes
- A policy requiring strong passwords is one of the best rules you can make for your business.
- Without such a policy, many employees will revert to common words such as “password” and “QWERTY” to protect their work equipment.
- Weak or stolen passwords are implicated in over 80% of corporate data breaches.
- In addition to a strong password policy, requirements such as two-factor authentication and firewalls can help protect your company.
What is a Password Policy?
A password policy is a set of rules your company creates to guide employees on using strong passwords. It’s an essential piece of the overall digital security strategy for your small business.
Why are Strong Passwords Important to Your Business?
Strong passwords protect your business from hackers looking to infect your network with ransomware, turn your computer into a bot they can use however they want, or steal sensitive information like log-in credentials or credit card numbers. These types of cybersecurity attacks can cripple your business financially and permanently damage its reputation.
Weak or stolen passwords account for more than 80% of company data breaches, so it’s imperative to have a strong password policy to protect your business. Left without this guidance, most of your employees aren’t going to use good passwords.
Even with data breaches and cybersecurity dominating the news, the most popular password is still “password.” The second most common is “123456.” Strong password usage is not something you want to leave to employees. Fortunately, creating and implementing a good password policy for your small business is easy.
Tips for Creating a Password Policy
1. Set requirements for passwords.
- A minimum 12-character length
- A mix of numbers, upper- and lowercase letters, and symbols
- New passwords can’t be the same as old passwords
- Every account and device must have a unique password
2. Make it clear what accounts and devices the password policy applies to.
Many employees use their personal computers or mobile devices for work, and it may not occur to them that your company’s password policy extends to these, too. Employees’ devices to access company files and accounts must be protected with a secure password.
3. Passwords should never be shared with anyone.
Let employees know that no one in the company will ever email, call, or text them requesting their password.
4. Encourage employees to use a password manager.
Password managers are a secure way to store such items. Instead of having to remember dozens of passwords, employees just have to remember one master password. Encourage employees to use a manager from your company’s approved list.
5. Don’t write passwords down.
Almost everyone knows people who have their passwords taped to their desks or laptops. Let your staff know this isn’t acceptable.
How to Encourage Employees to Use Strong Passwords
The most effective way to get your employees to use strong passwords is to educate them about why it’s important. It’s difficult to motivate staff if you present your password policy as just another set of rules they have to follow. Make it personal. Help them understand how a strong password protects their personal information, too. And it keeps your business — and their jobs — safe.
Make digital security awareness part of your company culture. Culture is reinforced through regular communication. Ensure your company’s leadership is well educated about cybersecurity and consistently follows your password policy and other digital security protocols.
At staff meetings, include company updates and messages about digital security. Discuss news on data breaches, have short lessons about cybersecurity risks, such as spear phishing, and regularly refresh your employees’ memories about your password policy and other digital security measures. The more your employees hear about digital security and see that management takes it seriously, the more likely they’ll be to enforce your password policy.
Other Ways to Increase Security
Use a virtual private network
A virtual private network (VPN) establishes a secure network connection. It’s a necessity if your employees ever work remotely and need to use public Wi-Fi. Most free public Wi-Fi isn’t secure, and hackers can easily steal information sent over these networks. A VPN ensures your employees can safely use public Wi-Fi when necessary.
Use two-factor authentication if available
Two-factor authentication requires users to log in with the correct credentials and then authenticate their identity using a second step like a security code sent to their phone.
This adds a strong layer of security that’s extremely difficult for hackers to get around. Many types of software and accounts now have an option to enable two-factor authentication.
Limit user access
Protect your company data by limiting user access to sensitive files and accounts. Depending on the type of digital file storage you use, you can password-protect confidential files and folders or hide them completely from users who do not need to view them.
Install a firewall
A firewall is essentially a filter for your company network. It blocks malicious code and only allows clean traffic through. This protects your business from malware and viruses that can steal data or damage your systems.
Never share files or sensitive information via email
Hackers can spoof a known email address within your company and email employees requesting sensitive information or asking them to download a file. Spear phishing is one of the most common ways companies get hacked. Make it a blanket policy never to send files via email so employees know immediately that any file they get from a colleague’s email address is suspicious.
Keep devices updated
When companies release patches or updates for their software or devices, it’s often because they’ve discovered a security flaw that needs to be fixed. By keeping devices up to date, employees can prevent hackers from exploiting any known vulnerabilities.
The world is becoming increasingly digital, and while that provides many new opportunities and conveniences, it also means the public is more at risk for cybercrime. This is especially true for small businesses.
Hackers prefer to target small companies because they often lack proper digital security measures. You can ensure your business isn’t an easy target by following these tips to create and implement a strong password policy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Employee Password Policies
Why do many employees use weak passwords?
It’s tough to remember different passwords for all employees’ accounts in their work and personal lives. Repeatedly using the same simple password makes it easier to keep them straight.
What is a good organization password policy?
Many cyber experts recommend that companies require employees to use passwords at least eight characters long. Some suggest passwords over 60 characters to guard highly sensitive data. Passwords should mix uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and characters.
How can I come up with a strong password?
Use a password manager. Many password manager programs can automatically create strong passwords based on your requirements, such as character counts or symbols. And with a password manager, you only need to remember the program’s main password. The manager keeps track of the rest and fills them in for you.
What’s the worst password to use?
Any password that uses a common word, such as “temp” or “password,” or repeats the same numbers (123123) or letters (ZZZZZ) is a bad choice. Computer hacking programs can figure out such passwords in under a second.