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Your passwords are the most common way to prove your identity when using websites, email accounts, your computer and university systems. The creation and use of strong passwords is therefore essential to protecting your security and identity. And remember, the best security in the world is useless if a malicious person has access to your legitimate username and password.

  • ☑ Passwords Summary - Top Tips

    Further explanation is provided on this page, but you must follow these rules to keep your passwords and logins secure:

    1. Choose a SECURE (hard to guess) password.

    2. ONLY use your university email address for university business.

    3. NEVER use your university password for any other site or service!

    4. NEVER share your password(s) with anyone!

    5. NEVER let anyone else login to any of your university or personal online accounts or apps.

    6. REMEMBER: NO genuine organisation or representative will ever ask you for any of your passwords.

    7. If you think someone else knows your university password - change it immediately AND contact the IT Service Desk.

    8. If you think someone else knows one of your personal passwords - change it immediately and contact the service provider.

    Watch the Passwords video from the Internet Safety for Students course on Linkedin Learning (University login required).

  • Choosing the right password

    Passwords should be hard for somebody else to guess but easy to remember.  A good rule is to make sure that somebody who knows you well, couldn't guess your password in 20 attempts. Whilst you need a secure password, you also need to remember it without having to write it down somewhere.

    1. Three Random Words

    As such, a useful and effective method is to use three random words.

    Three well-chosen random words can be quite memorable but not easy to guess providing a good compromise between protection and usability. A service provider (including the University of Cumbria) may also require you to include at least one uppercase letter (ABC), add in a numeric character (0123456789) and/or a non-alphanumeric character (!#$@?~).

    Even if it is not required, adding in these additional characters will make your password more secure. These should be used randomly and not for simple letter/number substitution.

    Good example: ForestCheeseShell@

    Excellent example: Party(Wombat7Postcard%

    Poor example: Liv3rpoolFoot8allC1ub

    Awful example: oldtraffordfootball

    Please note: DO NOT use the following characters “ £ & and + in your university password as this will affect your ability to sign into the online print payment system.

    2. Choosing a secure and memorable password

    When generating such a password avoid using personal information, a single dictionary word and predictable keyboard sequences such as 'Qwerty123' or 'Zxcvbnm123'.  In addition, Ensure the password is unique. Do not use the same password with multiple accounts. This way, if one of your personal accounts are compromised, the attacker will not be able to breach any other of your accounts. including your university network account.

    The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has some useful advice on how to choose a non-predictable password.

    3. Password length

    Length matters! Although many services require a minimum length of 8 characters for a password, using 16 characters is not twice as secure - it is millions of times harder to guess.

    Cyber security experts say that 8 "letter" passwords can be hacked in minutes, but that 12 to 16 characters satisfy most security requirements and can take years for a computer to guess. 

    4. Personal as well as University

    This advice should be applied to any of your personal online services as well as your University network user account. For student network user accounts there are some fundamental policies that are enforced which must be adhered to when selecting a password. Failure to do so will result in your new password not being accepted. These are as follows:

    • Minimum of 8 characters in length
    • Combination of uppercase, lowercase (and non-alphanumeric characters if desired though these should be used randomly and not for simple letter/number substitution)

    5. Test your password(s)

    The bitwarden website will allow you to test your potential passwords for security. The service is free and secure - they don't store any information that you type into the box. Try a few combinations and don't stop until you manage to get "Your password score: Strong".

    bitwarden: Password Strength Testing Tool

  • Password Re-use

    There are an increasing number of websites and services being compromised by hackers and because some people use their University email address and the same password, for external sites, University passwords are being captured and can be used to access your account and University systems.

    This puts the security of University services and data at risk, therefore it is vitally important that you use a different email address and a different secure password for external IT services; such as social media and online shopping accounts.

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    ONLY use your university email address for university business!

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    NEVER use your university password for any other site or service!

    Advice on choosing a secure password can be found in the section above.

  • Password sharing

    Disclosing your University password(s) directly contravenes the University’s Computer Acceptable Use Policy and presents a real risk of malicious use, service disruption, data loss or damage to the university’s reputation – as well as disciplinary action against you.Section 4 of the aforementioned policy provides more information and advice regarding the disclosure of passwords as well as usernames.

    Put simply:

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    NEVER share your university (or personal) IT password(s)

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    NEVER let anyone else login to any of your accounts using your password (not even family and friends)

    No member of University staff will ever ask you for your password(s)

    No staff member from an external service provider will ever ask you for your password(s)

    If you believe someone knows your password, you must change it immediately; the IT Service Desk can assist you in doing this.

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