Creating Strong Passwords

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If you’re planning to take the Security+ exam, you should have a good understanding of important password security concepts such as using strong passwords.

Here’s a sample practice test question:

Q. An outside security auditor recently completed an in-depth security audit on your network. One of the issues he reported was related to passwords. Specifically, he found the following passwords used on the network: Pa$$, 1@W2, and G7bT3. What should be changed to avoid the problem shown with these passwords?

A. Password complexity

B. Password length

C. Password history

D. Password reuse

Can you answer this question? More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

Security+ Practice Test Questions

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Over 440 realistic Security+ practice test questions

All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct,

and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

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Multiple quiz formats to let you use these questions based on the way you learn.
  • Learn mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
  • Learn mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. Use this if you want to make sure that you see all of the questions. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
  • Test mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
  • Test mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
  • Test mode - 100 random questions. View 100 random questions from the full test bank similar to how the Security+ exam has a potential maximum of 100 multiple choice questions. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.

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INCLUDES QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU PREPARE

FOR THE NEW PERFORMANCE BASED QUESTIONS 

Bonus - Performance Based Questions

Additional Security+ questions to help you prepare for the new performance based questions. These are included with the full bank of Security+ practice test questions and are divided into different sections. For example, you'll have access to the following links:

- Performance Based Question - Set 1

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of security to mobile devices and servers in a data center. You'll then have two questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 2

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of attacks with the name of the attack type. You'll then have five questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 3

You'll see a graphic showing a network with computers and servers separated by a firewall. The firewall is used to control traffic between the computers and users using rules within an access control list (ACL).  You'll have three questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly identify the relevant components of the rule. The incorrect answers and explanation provide you with insight into how to correctly answer this type of question on the actual exam.

- Performance Based Question - Set 4

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam related to what a forensic analyst would do during an investigation. You'll then have two questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 5

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match protocols and ports. You'll then have seven questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 6

You'll see a list of security controls along with a graphic showing devices and locations within an organization, along with instructions on what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match the controls with the devices and locations. You'll then have four questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 7

You'll see a list of authentication methods and authentication factors along with instructions on what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match the authentication methods with the authentication factors. You'll then have six questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This set also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 8

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of attacks with the name of the attack type. You'll then have five questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This is similar to Set 2 but expands on the possibilities. The set also includes a link to a page showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

New - Performance Based Question - Set 9

New questions recently added using a different testing engine. See a demo here. This set includes drag and drop and matching questions on ports.

New - Performance Based Question - Set 10

A random set of 20 performance-based questions using drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in-the blank. This set includes performance-based questions on RAID.

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Using Strong Passwords

Creating Strong Passwords
One method used to make passwords more secure is to require them to be strong. A strong password is at least eight characters in length, doesn’t include words found in a dictionary or any part of a user’s name, and combines three of the four following character types:

  • Uppercase characters (26 letters A–Z)
  • Lowercase characters (26 letters a–z)
  • Numbers (10 numbers 0–9)
  • Special characters (32 printable characters, such as !, $, and *)

A complex password uses multiple character types, such as Ab0@. However, a complex password isn’t necessarily strong. It also needs to be sufficiently long. It’s worth noting that recommendations for the best length of a strong password vary depending on the type of account. In the past, experts have recommended lengths of 8 characters, 10 characters, and more. As of January 2016, Microsoft recommends a password length of at least 14 characters.  Organizations often require administrators to create passwords at least 15 characters long. A key point is that longer passwords are more secure and short passwords of 4 or 5 characters are extremely weak.

The combination of different characters in a password makes up the key space, and you can calculate the key space with the following formula: C^N (CN). C is the number of possible characters used, and N is the length of the password. The ^ character in C^N indicates that C is raised to the N power.

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The 401 Version of the Study Guide

SY0-401 Study GuideThe CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide is an update to the top-selling SY0-201 and SY0-301 study guides, which have helped thousands of readers pass the exam the first time they took it.

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Over 400 realistic practice test questions with in-depth explanations will help you test your comprehension and readiness for the exam. The book includes:

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  • A 100 question post-test
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For example, a 6-character password using only lowercase letters (26 letters) is calculated as 26^6 (266), or about 308 million possibilities. Change this to a 10-character password and the value is 26^10 (2610), or about 141 trillion possibilities. Although this looks like a high number of possibilities, there are password-cracking tools that can test more than 20 billion passwords per second on desktop computers with a high-end graphics processor. An attacker can crack a 10-character password using only lowercase characters (141 trillion possibilities) in less than two hours.

However, if you use all 94 printable characters (uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters) with the same 6- and 10-character password lengths, the values change significantly: 94^6 (946) is about 689 billion possibilities, and 94^10 (9410) is about 53 quintillion. That’s 53 followed by 18 zeroes.

You probably don’t come across quintillion very often. The order is million, billion, trillion, quadrillion, and then quintillion. The password-cracking tool that cracks a lowercase password in 2 hours will take years to crack a 10-character password using all four character types.

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Security experts often mention that if you make a password too complex, you make it less secure.

Read that again. It is not a typo.

More complexity equates to less security. This is because users have problems remembering overly complex passwords such as 4%kiElNsB* and they are more likely to write them down. A password written on paper or stored in a file on a user’s computer significantly reduces security.

Instead, users are encouraged to use passphrases. Instead of nonsensical strings of characters, a passphrase is a long string of characters that has meaning to the user. A few examples of strong passphrases are IL0veSecurity+, IL0veThi$B00k, and IWi11P@$$. Note that these examples include all four character types—uppercase letters, lowercase letters, one or more numbers, and one or more special characters. These passwords are also known as passphrases because they are a combination of words that are easier to remember than a nonsensical string of characters such as 4*eiRS@<].

Strong passwords never include words that can be easily guessed, such as a user’s name, words in a dictionary (for any language), or common key combinations.

Remember this

Complex passwords use a mix of character types. Strong passwords use a mix of character types and have a minimum password length of eight characters.


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Helping you Pass the First Time

Online access includes all of the content from the

CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide

  • Introduction
  • About the exam (including types of questions and strategies for performance-based questions)
  • 100 question pre-assessment exam
  • Mastering Security Basics (full content from Chapter 1 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Control Types and Methods (full content from Chapter 2 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Basic Network Security (full content from Chapter 3 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Securing Your Network (full content from Chapter 4 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Securing Hosts and Data (full content from Chapter 5 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Malware and Social Engineering (full content from Chapter 6 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Identifying Advanced Attacks (full content from Chapter 7 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Managing Risk (full content from Chapter 8 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Preparing for Business Continuity (full content from Chapter 9 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Cryptography (full content from Chapter 10 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Operational Security (full content from Chapter 11 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • 100 question post-assessment exam
  • Security+ Acronyms

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Test your readiness with these quality materials

Random 100-question tests

Random practice tests from the all of the practice test questions in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

34 Simulated Performance-based Questions

Eight sets of performance-based questions with multiple questions in each set. These questions help you understand and prepare for performance based questions.

22 Realistic Performance-based Questions

Two new sets of performance-based questions with a total of 22 questions. These new questions use a new testing engine that includes realistic drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in the blank questions.

Flashcard Set

  • 273 Security+ Flashcards to reinforce key testable concepts
  • 280 Security+ acronyms flashcards to help you master the required acronyms
  • 204 Security+ Remember This slides

Audio - SY0-401 Security+ Remember This Audio Files

Learn by Listening. Over one hour and 15 minutes of audio (MP3 downloads.)

Audio - SY0-401 Security+ Question and Answer Audio Files

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Bonus #1

Audio from the end of chapter reviews from each of the chapters in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. Over one hour and 15 minutes of additional audio.

Bonus #2

Subnetting mini-tutorial that will help you answer two key question types:
  • Identify how many hosts a subnet supports
  • Identify valid IP addresses within a subnet

Bonus #3 

Access the study materials for a total of 60 days because sometimes life happens.

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Q. An outside security auditor recently completed an in-depth security audit on your network. One of the issues he reported was related to passwords. Specifically, he found the following passwords used on the network: Pa$$, 1@W2, and G7bT3. What should be changed to avoid the problem shown with these passwords?

A. Password complexity

B. Password length

C. Password history

D. Password reuse

Answer is B. The password policy should be changed to increase the minimum password length of passwords. These passwords are only four and five characters long, which is too short to provide adequate security.

They are complex because they include a mixture of at least three of the following character types: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

Password history and password reuse should be addressed if users are reusing the same passwords, but the scenario doesn’t indicate this is a problem.

See Chapter 2 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on authentication factors.

You may also like to view these related blog posts:

Password Policy Settings

Increasing Password Security

Understanding Password History

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