Today, 80% of hacking incidents start with stolen login credentials. Whether you use common password phrases or apply the same password to multiple websites, these practices make it easier for cyberattackers to guess your login credentials. Strong password practices are essential for protecting company and user data.

Password hashing and salting are defense strategies for passwords. Combining both techniques can lower the chances of hackers obtaining login credentials. Read on to learn more about password hashing and salting and how Optimal IDM can help with identity access management.

What Is Password Hashing?

Hashing is an important security step for password protection. This method uses an encryption algorithm to transform your chosen password into a string of random letters, numbers and symbols. 

You likely have different passwords for various websites and applications. Many websites use the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol to establish a connection between the server and the client. SMB sends requests and responses back and forth between the two parties — entering your password is a request, and the site responds by giving you access to the page.

Hash functions use a cipher to change the password you enter into a scrambled string of characters, shielding its identity. If cyberattackers hack into a website and access its password storage, they wouldn’t be able to view genuine passwords.

The hashing process follows these steps:

  1. Account creation: Many websites require a password to make purchases, post content or view information. Users input a username and password to establish an account with the website.
  2. Password storage: The webpage uses a hash function while transferring the password information into storage. After hashing, the password appears as a string of random letters and numbers. 
  3. Website reentry: Users enter their username and password information again to re-access the site. 
  4. Password confirmation: The website runs the information they enter through the same hashing function, checking it against the password stored in their database. If the two hashes match, the site grants access to the user. 

What Is Password Salting?

Salting provides another layer of protection for your password. It adds a randomly-generated string of characters to your password before it goes through a hashing function. For example, if your password was “hello1”, the salting process could add an extra character string like “weisdkj7dk4” onto the end so the hash function receives “hello1weisdkj7dk4”. 

Hashing by itself has a notable drawback — because it uses a cipher, the same password will always generate the same hash. For example, a user that uses “hello1” as their password would have the exact hash in the website’s database. Attackers can watch for these patterns and backward engineer the hash to access passwords more easily.

Password salt ensures a unique password hash each time. Adding salt to the password hashing process lets you create a more comprehensive security solution. Attackers must decode hashes one at a time for every user, which is a long and difficult process. Thanks to the random addition of extra characters, salting also makes it impossible to tell whether multiple users have the same passwords. 

why is it important to salt your passwords graphic

Importance of Salting Passwords

Password hashing and salting offer crucial protection against cyberattacks. They help businesses and websites protect user data in SMB protocol and other systems. 

Once attackers access a user’s password, they gain complete access to sensitive data. Users might store payment information or personal data like their addresses in their accounts. Hackers often focus on breaking through passwords to access these details. By incorporating password salting and hashing, you increase security measures for login credentials. 

These methods offer more protection against brute force attack strategies like:

  • Simple brute force attack: Basic passwords are particularly vulnerable to simple brute force attacks. Cyberattackers with a list of common passwords can easily guess weaker passwords through simple trial and error. They may also conduct basic research to find personal information that lets them crack a password. For example, if a user’s password is their favorite sports team, cyberattackers may be able to guess it after browsing their social media accounts.
  • Rainbow table attacks: Attackers use rainbow tables to crack passwords that have gone through the hashing function. These tables generate a database of decrypted hash passwords and hackers search them to find the hash they need. Salting prevents these attacks from succeeding because each salt creates a unique hash. 
  • Dictionary attacks: Dictionary attacks are a more advanced version of brute force attacks. Hackers use computed hash lists to test the most common username and password combinations. They also use stolen password lists and compare each hash with the passwords, looking for matches. Salting makes this process much harder by adding an unknown sequence of characters.

How to Create a Strong Salt

Strong salts and hashes mitigate security risks. Here are a few tips for salt creation:

  • Develop strong passwords: Even with assistance from a password salt and hash, choosing strong passwords is vital. Complicated passwords make it that much harder for hackers to break through defenses — the triple shield of complex passwords, salting and hashing is extremely difficult to crack. Users should follow password best practices like using a different password for each website and avoiding dictionary terms. You should also build long passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, capitalizations and special characters. 
  • Create unique salts for each user: It’s best to create a unique salt for every username and password. This technique makes it much more challenging for attackers to decrypt hashes. You should also give a new salt when users change their passwords.
  • Keep salts and hashes private: Privacy is essential for security. Websites can store salts and hashes separately, making it harder for hackers to link them. In addition, avoid system-wide salts. Every user should have a different salt for each username and password.

Strengthen Your IAM With Optimal IDM

Optimal IDM is a leading provider of identity access management solutions like our IAM platform OptimalCloud. Our solution is fully customizable and can meet the unique needs of your business. The Single Sign-On (SSO) feature allows users to sign in once and gain complete access. SSO will enable you to avoid password complications like resets.

The OptimalCloud also contains other identity access management (IAM) features that can further protect users from password attacks. We work with you to develop a security plan that meets your business’s unique goals and circumstances. You can also scale the OptimalCloud as your company grows or meets new challenges. 

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Contact Optimal IDM to Secure Your Business

Strong security features protect your company and user data from breaches. With Optimal IDM solutions, you can find the custom software solution for your security needs. 

Contact us online to get started with Optimal IDM today.

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