Hashing Explained: How Password Protection Works

Passwords are used to secure everything from personal email accounts to sensitive financial information, so it’s more important than ever to understand how password protection works. With an ever-increasing number of cyber-attacks and data breaches, it’s essential to have a strong, unique password to protect your information.

Unfortunately, even with the best password practices in place, data breaches still happen, and passwords can become exposed. When a data breach occurs, it means that a hacker has gained unauthorized access to a database containing user information, which may include passwords. 

In this article, we’ll explain what it means when your password has been exposed, and how hashing can help protect your password.


What Does It Mean When Your Password Has Been Exposed?

When your password has been exposed, it means that a third party has access to your password, and therefore access to any account associated with that password. This could happen due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • Data breaches 
  • Malware 
  • Phishing attacks
  • Social engineering


When your password is exposed, it becomes vulnerable to brute-force attacks, where a hacker tries to guess your password by trying out various combinations of characters. Hackers can also use specialized software to crack passwords by using algorithms to guess common passwords or dictionary words.


Why is Having a Strong, Unique Password Important? 

Having a strong, unique password is crucial in protecting your information. A strong password is difficult for hackers to guess or crack and is not used for any other accounts. The longer and more complex your password is, the harder it is for hackers to guess.

A strong password should include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using common words or phrases that can easily be guessed or found in a dictionary. 

Instead, use a passphrase that is easy to remember but difficult to guess. For example, “My$afeP@ssword!” is a strong password that uses a combination of characters and is easy to remember. (PS: Don’t use that one! It’s just an example.)


What is Hashing, and How Does it Protect Your Password? 

Hashing is a technique used to protect passwords by converting them into a unique string of characters, known as a hash. When you create a password, it’s hashed and stored in a database. When you enter your password to log in to a service, it’s hashed again, and the resulting hash is compared to the stored hash.

Hashing provides an added layer of security to passwords because it’s a one-way process. Once a password has been hashed, it cannot be converted back to its original form. This means that even if a hacker gains access to a database containing hashed passwords, they cannot use the hashes to obtain the actual passwords.


Why Does Length Matter in Terms of Cracking? 

The length of a password is an essential factor in determining its strength. The longer a password is, the more difficult it is for a hacker to crack. A longer password means that there are more possible combinations of characters that a hacker would need to try to guess.

For example, a six-character password made up of lowercase letters has 308 million possible combinations. However, an eight-character password made up of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters have 6.634 quadrillion possible combinations. This makes an eight-character password significantly more difficult to crack than a six-character password.


How Can You Protect Your Passwords? 

In addition to creating a strong, unique password, it’s also essential to practice good password hygiene. This includes avoiding reusing passwords for multiple accounts and changing passwords regularly, especially after a data breach. 

Many security experts also recommend using a password manager to generate and for each account.

Password managers are tools that help users create and manage strong, unique passwords for all their accounts. They work by generating long, complex passwords for each account and storing them in an encrypted database. Users only need to remember one master password to their other passwords.

Using a password manager can help simplify the process of creating and managing strong passwords. It can also reduce the risk of password reuse, which is a common cause of account compromise. When users reuse passwords for multiple accounts, it increases the risk that a hacker can gain access to multiple accounts with a single password.

Another factor to consider when it comes to password protection is the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA is a security process that requires users to provide two or more forms of authentication to access an account. This could include something the user knows, such as a password, and something they have, such as a security token or fingerprint.

MFA provides an additional layer of security to protect against unauthorized access, even if a password has been compromised. It’s becoming increasingly common for online services to offer MFA as an option for users, and it’s highly recommended to enable it whenever possible.


Safeguard Your Accounts

Having a strong, unique password is critical in protecting your information online. While data breaches can happen, hashing provides an additional layer of security to protect your password from being exposed. Remember to create a password that is long and complex, using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters, and practice good password hygiene. 

If you need assistance securing your accounts with strong passwords, contact C Solutions IT to inquire about our comprehensive IT services today. By doing so, you can help keep your information safe and protect yourself from cyber threats.