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Internet Tech Guy’s Guide To Keeping Your Passwords Safe!

We are  in a connected world with our PC’s Laptops and SmartPhones  providing a  window to the Internet. However, we must keep our passwords safe so that those on the outside cannot look in! To get around in that world requires different levels of security. To simply surf the web catch up on the news is not a big risk, but going to your banking sites to pay bill IS a significant risk. Take the explosive growth of  Social Media; Twitter and Facebook provide anyone and everyone with a web browser ways to learn all about you. The recent buzz about Facebook and its privacy policy has made big news lately. For an eye-opening experience, click over to http://www.spokeo.com/. This site is a virtual white page phone book – except on steroids! Take a moment after reading this article to go over there and search on your own name. You will see a glimpse into your public web profile.

Get Secure And Stay Secure With Strong Passwords

Because there is so much data out there, don’t help by giving the bad guys a head start. Secure your digital world with strong passwords and good security practices. You do not want your User Names and Passwords to be part of the information easily accessible by strangers. One of the fastest growing crimes is Identity Theft. Companies such as LifeLock are capitalizing on the fear of having your identity stolen. Identity Theft Prevention is now a business that did not exist twenty years ago. Many of us have been victims or know of someone that have had accounts compromised by malicious hackers. It is frustrating and costly. So by now you should be convinced that security is important and you should be paying a bit more attention to your password habits. Here are some suggestions on taming the password beast while protecting your identity and assets.

Password Generation – DIY manual method using phrases

The first area to consider is password generation. When confronted with a requirement to create a login for a website, folks often go the easy route and use a memorable password they use on countless other sites. This is no longer a safe option in today’s world of sophisticated hackers. You must use strong passwords. Don’t neglect your User ID either. If possible, don’t use your email address and use the maximum characters that fit the criteria for a user name.

Here are some guidelines from Microsoft. The full list is available at http://www.microsoft.com/protect/fraud/passwords/create.aspx According to the article, the “keys to password strength are length and complexity”.

An ideal password is long and has letters, punctuation, symbols, and numbers.
Whenever possible, use at least 14 characters or more.
The greater the variety of characters in your password, the better.
Use the entire keyboard, not just the letters and characters you use or see most often
One DIY way to generate a good password is to take the first letters of a sentence of at least 10 words and turn that into a password. Here’s a suggested method: Using the sentence “A strong password will protect you from malicious hacker attacks most of the time”. Take the first letters of each word, like this: aspwpyfmhamott. Now substitute the @ sign for “a”. This results in @spwpyfmh@mott. Now change the “S” to $ and capitalize some of the letters, like this: @$pwpYfMH@moTt. Finally use a number or two to add complexity to your strong password, as shown here: @$pwpYfMH@m0Tt. This changed the “oh” to “zero”. This is a strong password that you might even be able to remember. Most likely you will need to store your passwords in a trusted system, or password safe.

Password Generation – Automated

There are also software tools and web-based sites that will generate strong passwords for you. If you don’t want to go through the steps above to manually create a strong password, try http://strongpasswordgenerator.com/ Choose the 14 character option and check the box to include symbols. Another online site for auto-generating complex passwords is at https://secure.msdservices.com/apg// A commercially available password management tool might be the solution for you.

Three Password Management Tools

If you have used the DIY or automated tools to generate strong passwords, how do you keep track of them? Do you use a spreadsheet, 3×5 cards or stickies on your monitor? This may suffice if you have one computer in a secure location at home. But if you are a road warrior or mobile worker you will need an another solution. Options include carrying a USB drive with your password information on it or online password management system. My recommendation is to use an online system so that you can access your sites from anywhere. Here are 3 tools to consider.

Keepass is a free password management system that is open source (OSI certified). It has many strong features including the ability to be run from a USB drive on any machine without installing on a Windows machine. It is secured by a master password or key file and encrypts the database. If you are on the geeky side and would like to have the ability to look at source code, Keepass is for you.

LastPass is one of the new players in the password management space. It is browser based and supports Windows and Mac as well as mobile devices. LastPass has a free version as well as a subscription based paid model. The premium version costs $1.00 per month and adds many features including mobile device support.

The long standing favorite is Roboform. It is available as a 30 day trial as well as a paid version, Roboform Pro. I have trusted friends that have  used it for years and highly recommend it. It is a password management system as well as an auto-form software that fills out the forms necessary to setting up accounts or making purchases online. There are many favorable reviews on Roboform so you can be assured it is cream of the crop.

There are other contenders in the marketplace. Do your research, but take action now and manage your passwords to keep your information safe. Your business, reputation and bank account are at stake!.

Get Secure! Stay Secure!

Allen Dresser


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