Hobbies & Interests

Passwords can be both strong and simple

Passwords can be both strong and simple

By Richard Aber

What’s the big deal?

Consider this: If your computer password gets into the wrong hands, someone else can control your entire online presence. If you use the same username/e-mail and password for your bank, Facebook, Twitter, eBay/PayPal, Google and iTunes accounts, you’ve given the “bad guys” the keys to your kingdom. They can empty your financial accounts, make bogus purchases on your dime, scam your friends and family, and lock you out of your digital life by changing the password before you even notice anything is wrong.

The most common reason for using one password for multiple accounts is: “I can’t remember multiple passwords!” But there are tools available that can help manage multiple passwords, such as LastPass, which is recommended by many Internet security professionals. With these tools (many of them completely free), there is no excuse for using the same passwords for multiple systems, services and websites.

If you use a password manager, be sure your master password is strong enough to resist attack. If someone were to crack your master password, they’ll be able to access all of your services, just as if you had used the same password across multiple services.

Here are a few tips for creating a strong password:

✔ Never use a single word, name or common phrase.
✔ Use a combination of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols.
✔ Substitute plain letters for similar looking characters (examples: ^^ for “m, l> for “b” or @ for “a”.)
✔ Longer passwords take longer to crack, and padding (also called haystack technique) can make a simple, easy-to-remember password more secure by adding additional characters before and after your typical password.

Here’s a sample of turning a plain-jane password into a strong password:
Password phrase: I love hats and cats
Substitution: !10v3#@t5&C@t$
Padding: ABCDE!10v3#@t5&C@t$54321
That’s a strong password, but fairly easy to remember…if you love hats and cats, that is!

It isn’t difficult to protect yourself by increasing your password strength. Using a password management system with a strong master password can protect your online identity from “bad guys” on the net. Don’t become a victim.

➢ Check the strengh of your passwords on Microsoft’s website: http://bit.ly/T0TNzh
➢ Check out LastPass, a highly recommended password manager, and download a free version: http://bit.ly/NDSqHF
➢ Learn more about padding your password: http://bit.ly/Q5yGLK

Update: 10/08/2012 —
I have had many friends tell me over the years that they don’t care if someone hacks into their Gmail, or takes over their Twitter or Facebook account. What most of them have not considered, is how so many of these online cloud services are tied together. For an example of just how horrific the fallout of an online security lapse can be, read this article by Wired’s Mat Honan. He gives a first hand account of how he was recently hacked, his Google account was deleted, his iPhone, iPad, and MacBook were all remotely erased, including irreplaceable family photos, and his Twitter account became a platform for the hackers to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. Although Mat’s experience wasn’t directly related to the strength of his password choices, it is a clear indication of the potential damage that online security lapses can cause. Something to keep in mind the next time you consider tying multiple cloud services together, or using a weak password, or using the same password for multiple services.

Hobbies & Interests

Richard Aber is the Internet Coordinator / IT Specialist at the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota. Richard spent a number of years as a graphic designer / prepress tech before moving into web development and IT work.

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