Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Some basic security pointers–#1

Is your computer a zombie? You can never be too secure, and neither can your PC. These few steps will go a long way in keeping your private information away from prying eyes, and prevent your machine from being used as a “zombie” by tech-savvy evil doers. (Most owners of zombie PCs are totally unaware that their computers are being used in this way.)

Tip of the day: The two basic steps I will discuss today–password protecting your User Accounts (and requiring logging in), and renaming your Administrator Account–should be prefaced with a quick description of what is, exactly, a strong password.

Strong passwords should be “complex”. That means that they should contain both upper and lower-case letters, special characters (!@#$%^&*(){}[]) and numbers, and be at least eight characters long, and–most definately–not be a word (or name) found in the dictionary. Your passwords (notice the plural. It is not wise to use the same password for everything.) will be easier to remember if you make them into a ‘passphrase’. A equestrian might use a passphrase of 1Lu^h0rsez, for example.

Now that you have a good password, it’s time to require authentication to use your machine. Start by clicking on Start>Control Panel>User Accounts (or Start>Settings>Control Panel>User Accounts. Depending on your version and preference setting). Then click on “Change an account,” and then click on “Create a password for your account.” Enter your password, twice, and if you’ld like, a password “hint” that will remind you (but not clue in the whole world) of your new password. Click “Create password.”

Now, since knowing your User Name is half the battle, click on “Change the way users log on or off.” Deselect (by unchecking the check in the checkbox) “Use the Welcome screen.”

Unbeknownst to most folks, Windows has a hidden Administrator account (this becomes vitally important when troubleshooting failing systems, or when User accounts get “locked out”) named “Administrator”. Hackers are well aware of this, and it is their favorite method of gaining access (and control over) your machine; since they know the User name, all they have to do is guess the password–which by default, and unless you set one, there isn’t one! Remedy this in XP Professional by going to Control Panel>Administrative Tools (you must use Classic View) and clicking on Local Security Policy. Then in the left column click on the plus sign next to Local Policies, and then click the Security Options folder (If you receive a warning about Group Policy, just ignore it) and a series of policies will appear in the right pane. The 4th or 5th one from the top should be “Accounts: Rename administrator account”. Double click on it and a dialogue box will open. Enter a new name, and click Apply, and OK.

In XP Home, the method is to click Start>Run. In the Run dialogue type in “Control userpasswords2” [no quotes] and click OK. From the User Accounts dialogue box, select the Administrator Account and click Properties. Enter the new name in the User Name text box, and click OK.

(For other versions of Windows the methodology is similar, but I recommend Searching Microsoft’s website for the specific steps.)

The last step is to congratulate yourself, because you have just made your computer much, much harder for a determined cracker to penetrate, and practically eliminated access to the casual browser.

Today’s free link: Steve Gibson’s ShieldsUp! This free scan, offered by a true giant in the computer field, analyzes your computer for vulnerabilities coming from the Internet, and tells you how your private data may be visible to outsiders. This link will appeal to the more tech-savvy, and be an eye openning experience for those of you who have not learned about firewalls yet.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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June 9, 2007 - Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, file system, how to, passwords, PC, privacy, rootkits, security, tech, User mode, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 Comments »

  1. I decided to make a second account on my son’s computer since I found he had been visiting sites that are not appropriate for 14 year old boy. I made a password (and verified it) for my account as administrator and then made his account. I was able to get to his, but when I tried to get back on to my account it said wrong password. I couldn’t figure out what I had done, since I knew what I typed (twice). I finally figured out that the password I typed was longer than the space provided. Am I now just screwed? Is my only option to reformat the whole thing? I hate thinking of losing all our pictures, documents, and songs. Please help. I am not sure how I found this article, so if you will please reply to my e-mail listed, I would much appreciate it.

    Thank you,

    Terri

    Like

    Comment by Terri Bonitz | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  2. Terri–
    You didn’t say which version of Windows, but, first, I would try typing in the first 14 characters of the password you tried to set. See if that will let you in.
    If not, For XP, you will need to log in to the Administrator account and reset your User Account’s password. Click this link, http://support.microsoft.com/kb/321305, and scroll down to “Method 2”.

    For Vista, press ctrl+alt+del, twice, and then enter a new (and different) password. This will become the new User Password.

    There are other methods, but try those first.

    Like

    Comment by techpaul | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  3. I have tried just the first 14 characters to no avail. Unfortunately, it is the Administrator’s account I passworded, and the one I am unable to enter. I am an idiot… I wish it was as easy as ctrl, alt, del x 2, that I could probably handle, but alas it is XP. :(

    Like

    Comment by Terri Bonitz | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  4. Terri–
    Boot into Safe Mode (rapidly hitting the F8 key) and log on to “Administrator”.. do not type in any password, just hit the Enter key.

    Once your in, go to Run, and type in Control Userpasswords2 and change your account passwords.

    Like

    Comment by techpaul | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  5. Ps~ In the link you led me to I read this in the summary and became very discouraged. It is exactly what I wanted since I do not want my son to be able to gain access, but in doing so I am afraid it has come back to bite me. The hardest part in all of this is all the pictures I will lose, that I have stored there.

    SUMMARY:
    “If this not the case, unfortunately, you have to reinstall Windows XP and all other programs that were installed on this computer before you can use this computer again. This is for security reasons. Otherwise, anyone could reset a password to anyone’s computer and gain access to private information.”

    Like

    Comment by Terri Bonitz | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thank you Paul, I will try that. I will let you know if I was successful.

    Like

    Comment by Terri Bonitz | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  7. If the method I just mentioned fails, download and burn the UBCD (Ultimate Boot CD) to CD (using the Copy, or .iso method) and then boot your computer to the CD.
    This article, http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com/windows-xp/2006/05/how-to-reset-the-administrator-password-for-windows-xp, describes the steps.

    Like

    Comment by techpaul | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  8. PS– there is a method for re-Intalling Windows that does not result in lost data.
    If you hit a wall, give me a call.

    Like

    Comment by techpaul | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  9. It worked :) Thank you !!!

    Like

    Comment by Terri Bonitz | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  10. Terri–
    You’re welcome. Now, please make a back-up copy of your valuable pictures (etc.) and burn them to disc?
    Pretty please with sugar top?

    https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2008/07/07/life-is-an-accumulation-of-memories/

    Like

    Comment by techpaul | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  11. Since you asked so nicely ;)

    Like

    Comment by Anonymous | August 30, 2008 | Reply

  12. All my pictures are now burned to disc, and I feel so much better. I am so pleased I found this site and I intend to visit often. Thanks again for all of your help. It is much appreciated.

    Terri

    Like

    Comment by Anonymous | August 30, 2008 | Reply

  13. […] The easiest way to seamlessly encrypt your whole hard drive, folders, or just selected files, is to install the free TrueCrypt. Use this and even if your laptop is stolen, the thief won’t be able to read your files.Be sure to set a good password! […]

    Like

    Pingback by ***Make $6,513 a day doing this*** « Tech–for Everyone | February 13, 2009 | Reply


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