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Secure Yourself!

Posted by AlienCG on July 1, 2009

Today, on the Eclectic Calendar, it is Secure Yourself Day, as proposed by yours truly.  Secure Yourself Day is designated as the day to change your online passwords.  Most people use their pet’s name or spouse or significant other’s name to form their passwords that protect their bank accounts, credit card logins and other sites that really should be more secure.  Your beloved pet Rottweiler may be a deterrent to people trying to enter your house, but it’s really not helping to protect your checking account.  If you’re guilty, raise your hand and hang your head.

Password security is critical to your own security.  Access to a billing site can be used to steal your identity and make your life a living hell.  Here’s the rule of thumb I use, if I can memorize my bank password, it’s too weak.  A password should be made up as many characters allowed by the site and made up of random characters.  So, how do you do random characters?  Well, there are plenty of “random” password sites (random is really pseudo-random, since computers use an algorithm) that can create a secure password for your needs.  One of my favorites is Perfect Passwords at GRC.com.  GRC is Gibson Research Corporation and is owned and run by Steve Gibson of the Security Now! podcast on TWiT.  You will see three boxes outlined in red, these are randomly generated passwords that will change when the screen is refreshed.  The top box should only be used for WEP encryption since it is the least secure of password.  It is only made up of only 16 total characters.  Many sites will allow all ASCII characters which 95 total characters, but since some devices and sites may have problems with the <SPACE> it was removed from the algorithm.  If the site only asks for alpha-numeric characters, use the third box down.  I know you probably don’t want a 63 character password, so take a piece of it and use it.  Use 12 or more characters at least as it will make it tougher for brute force attacks to crack them.

Now that you have a secure password for your private data, where do you keep it?  What about in a text file in My Documents?  NO!  I go through the work of writing them down and keeping them in a file card box.  I also use KeePass Password Safe to store them.  I use a password and a flash drive access file (you need to plug in the USB drive in order to see passwords).  You can also store them in a text file on that thumb drive, but you must keep it very safe.

I hope these tips help make you more secure.  Do not use real words or proper names.  Do use randomized passwords.  Keep your passwords safe.  It’s also a good idea to change them regularly.  Have a nice day and enjoy changing your passwords.  I will be back next week to talk about securing your router.

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8 Responses to “Secure Yourself!”

  1. NoRegrets said

    What happens if you have a system? say, always adding a certain number to something? not that I do that….

  2. laura b. said

    What great tips. I think I am definitely not careful enough about the way I use passwords. This is a really good reminder…good common sense. Thanks very much, Guardian Angel…I mean, Alien.

  3. AlienCG said

    NoRegrets: If you have a system, the hackers will know it. I prefer randomizing my passwords. I use upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols (wherever possible).

    Laura B.: I’m not saying every password has to be a 63-character printable ASCII string, just the critical ones like bank and credit card web sites.

  4. Great information! I had not thought to use my flash drive to keep them in! Great idea. I have so many and I do not want to duplicate. I will take your suggestions to heart. Thanks!

  5. Tara said

    I have been guilty in the past of making passwords too easy. Thank you for the links!

  6. AlienCG said

    In a lot of cases, if somebody is trying a brute force attack on a computer or trying to find a wireless signal to jump onto, they will take the easiest one. If it takes 1 hour to break into my computer, but 30 seconds to get into my neighbor’s, they will go after my neighbor’s. Keep that in mind.

    Brute force is simply trying every combination of password until success.

  7. i just raised my hand and banged my head.

    when my son returns i’ll ask him to fix me up.

  8. churlita said

    I’ve used the same password for years. It looks like I need to rectify that. Thanks for all of the helpful hints.

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