August 27, 2012
Niles Nerd

Maintain Computer Security with Strong Passwords! Instead of a pass-WORD, choose a pass-PHRASE!

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A password can be the only thing between you and the ‘bad guys’, so secure your important data, by creating strong passwords.
Some ways to make your password more secure is to include numbers with your letters, mix up the cases (capitals and lower case), and to include punctuation and symbols signs. Eliminate duplicate characters or sequences of letters or numbers (abc, 123), or adjacent letters on your keyboard (asdf). Use at least 8 characters.
When you think you have a genuinely safe password, you might want to test it. Try howsecureismypassword.net!

  • Avoid using passwords using real words in any known language. Cyber criminals can and do use sophisticated tools that can rapidly decipher passwords. Commonly misspelled words, common abbreviations, or words written backwards are, well, common, and easily decipherable. Other common password practices to avoid would be using your child or pet names, birthdates, addresses, or license numbers. If it is common and familiar to you – it will not be difficult for a criminal to access either!
  • Using these tips will help you to create more secure passwords, but you should also take other regular safety precautions.
  • Passwords should be changed every three months. Set yourself an automatic reminder on your computer. The same password should not be re-used for at least a year.
  • Each different login or application should have a separate username and password. That way, if you are compromised, the rest of your login’s are still secure.
  • For sure, use unique usernames and passwords on sites like your credit card or bank companies.
  • Keep your password in a secure place and do not share it with anyone. Others may not be as careful with it as you are. Especially, do not share it with children. Definitely do not share it with children that have Show-and-Tell in their classrooms!

We are all familiar with staring at the user name screen with a feeling of incompetence. Aren’t you glad you have a sense of humor? You may appreciate the cartoon of a tech student whose fit of inspiration put this as his Security Question: “What is your password?”
Or the cartoon of the nerd sitting there with his shoes off, apologizing for the smell: “Sorry about the odor. I have all my passwords tattooed between my toes!”
Always be careful about using a public site, or where the computer is not yours. When you are finished your business, always log out. There are programs, such as Home Keylogger which are used to intercept and record in a file everything that is entered from the keyboard. Just another “fun tool” used by friendly cyber criminals!
There are quite a number of different utilities and browser plug-ins that can both generate and plug in secure passwords for you. However, if you are using someone else’s computer, those passwords may not be as accessible to you. So instead of a pass-WORD , chose a pass-PHRASE. Pick a line from a favorite song or quote, and take the First letter from each of those words (Capitalizing at least one letter), and throw in a number or two, including a Symbol as well. It’s not a science – it’s a necessity!
And it the great words of Chris Pirillo: “Passwords are like underwear: you don’t let people see it, you should change it very often, and you shouldn’t share it with strangers.”
This post is from Susan Brooks, a Nerd living in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. You can find her on twitter (@susanthenerd), or email her susan.brooks(at)nerdsonsite(dot)com.

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