Tech – for Everyone

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

A Word About Words — Passwords, That Is

A Quick Look At Common Password Mistakes

Even if your name is Fred, “Fred” is not a good password.

Neither is “Fred1”. Nor is “Fred123”. Nor is “123Fred”. Nor is “Fredbirthdate“. Nor.. is “Derf”.

Now, I know, you read that and you might have laughed at those examples, and said to yourself, “nobody does that!” Well.. let me tell you, I look at a lot of machines in my job. Almost everybody does this. And when I look at their browser’s “remembered passwords” list, 95% of their online logins are “Fred123” too.

* It’s easy to remember.

* I’m asked for passwords every time I turn around. How am I supposed to remember them all?

* Nobody ever told me.

If you are a UC Berkeley alumnus, and your desktop is blue and gold “Cal” logos wallpaper.. what are the chances your password is “GoBears” or “GoCal”? From what I’ve seen, close to 100%.
(Substitute your favorite school/team)

Q: What are passwords for? And why am I being bugged for one ALL the time?

A: Passwords are the primary means to prevent unauthorized access. Put a simpler way, a password keeps Joe Criminal from reading your e-mail and sending a letter to your boss telling said boss to go fly a kite (or worse).. or transferring your saving account balance into his.

That’s kind of important, wouldn’t you say?

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 definitely–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’. An equestrian might use a passphrase of 1Lu^h0rsez, for example.

You should change your current passwords once every 90 days.. just like they (probably) make you do at work.

OK. Good advice. But since it’s tedious, who’s going to actually do it? Well, since easily guessed passwords are the primary security weakness in the world of computing.. (think “Sarah Palin” and “celebrity Facebook account hacked”) and have been since the beginning, I’d say, I sure hope YOU will, Dear Reader.

Solution: There are tools (programs) to help you with your passwords, which are collectively known as “password managers”. These tools can generate complex passwords, store them securely, etc., and are a great way to go for those people – like me – who sometimes forget them, and forget to change them after 90 days.

There are many to choose from, but the most popular one is undoubtedly RoboForm, which has both a free, and a “Pro” version, and there’s a portable version too.

Today’s free download: RoboForm was named PC Magazine Editor’s Choice, and CNET’s Software of the Year.

RoboForm allows you to:
.    Manage your passwords and Log In automatically.
.    Fill long registration and checkout forms with one click.
.    Encrypt your passwords to achieve complete security.
.    Generate random passwords to maximize password strength.
.    Fight Phishing by entering passwords only on matching web sites.
.    Defeat Keyloggers by not using the keyboard to type passwords.
.    Back up your passwords and copy them between computers.
.    Synchronize passwords between computers using GoodSync.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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May 15, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, passwords, security | 9 Comments