This Lo-Fi Trick Could Help Secure Your Passwords

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Data breach after data breach after data breach, and we're still so bad at changing our own passwords. We're so bad at coming up with secure online passwords that we can create lists year after year of the most hackable passwords out there. While paying for a password manager is a good idea no matter what, there could be a simpler way we can keep our data safe.

Cybersecurity experts in England have just released a study about ways people can instill good habits when it comes to password hygiene. As coauthor Emily Collins of the University of Bath puts it, "Humans are the weak link in cybersecurity." We can ignore or forget about calendar reminders and just plain delay doing the right thing, despite our best intentions. That means Post-it notes or pop-up windows aren't going to cut it. We need something that buzzes and flashes lights.

The research team took its inspiration from fitness and lifestyle apps. They've modified an ambient display device — basically a set of circuits and lights, available online for about $20 each — to detect human behaviors, like leaving your desk, and respond with stimuli you can't ignore. Right now, the team is programming these devices to remind users to lock their computer screens, but they're working on an open-source program that will keep consumers on a schedule of changing their own passwords manually.

Keep an eye out for the GIFS project (Gentle Interventions for Security) to learn more about possible products. For now, see if you can find a noisy, physical timer to keep you on track. Cyberattacks are up 67 percent over the last five years. Fighting back can be far simpler than you think.