Five Minute Security Tip: Safe, Secure, Strong Passwords Will Increase Your Computer’s Safety

Security password entryYep, much as you hate to change your passwords, this tip is essential to increasing the safety of your computer. And it’s a part of the security practices you should be using on your computer, here’s a security tip that will only take five minutes to set up on your computer and will reduce your exposure to computer security threats.

Passwords are akin to the lock on the front door of your house…you want to keep the bad guys out, and you use a lock, hopefully strong enough to keep them out, or at least slow their entrance long enough that you can get some help on the way. A strong password will slow, or stop an intruder to your computer.

A strong password is one that is difficult to guess, either by a human or a password breaker program. The characteristics of a strong password are: it should be at least 8 characters in length, include letters(both capital and lower case), numbers, and special characters. Here are some don’ts for a strong password: don’t use a word that can be found in a dictionary; don’t use proper names, the names of your family members, your social security number or any identification number; and don’t use the same password, strong or not, on all the websites and applications, etc. for which you have passwords (if a hacker does guess it, he’ll try to use it on everything else you access).

The practical difference between a strong password and a weak one is that a weak one can be “guessed” by a hacker’s password breaker program in a matter of seconds and a strong one may take days. This is important in that, just like human thieves, the hackers are looking for an easy break-in. If your computer is secured with strong passwords that take more than an hour to break, chances are good that the hacker will just go elsewhere.

Check out my series of articles on passwords for lots more information on the what, why, and how of passwords beginning with Passwords, Passwords, Passwords. They will also explain, in detail, how to create strong passwords…that you can remember.

Passwords must also be kept safe and secure from hackers. They should not be stored on your computer, unless they are stored in a good password manager application that encrypts passwords in storage. The reason for this is that if a hacker should somehow gain access to your computer and passwords, he would have access to all your applications, websites, files, banking accounts,…you get the picture. It’s like leaving the keys to your house in the door knob all night. Not a good idea.

Passwords should also be changed periodically to guard against someone having broken one or more of them. I would suggest changing every password every three to six months, depending on how much you use the Internet. For example, if you don’t surf the net to a great extent and mainly just use your computer for email and word-processing, etc., you may be able to change every six months, otherwise, any heavier Internet use would call for changing every 3 months. If you think your computer or passwords have been compromised in any way the passwords should be changed immediately.

I urge you to take your passwords very seriously. Do your homework by reading my articles and developing the techniques to create strong passwords and keep them fresh. Then develop a plan to make and keep them safe, secure and strong.

Remember, be safe when using the Internet…it’s dangerous out there.

Please comment on this subject; we all learn from each other when our views and opinions are shared.

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Home computing is a blast…keep it safe, productive and enjoyable.

Best regards,

Paul

paulshomecomputing(at)yahoo.com

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10 Comments

Filed under How-To Corner, Internet, security

10 responses to “Five Minute Security Tip: Safe, Secure, Strong Passwords Will Increase Your Computer’s Safety

  1. Pingback: Five Minute Security Tip: Safe, Secure, Strong Passwords Will Increase Your Computer’s Safety | Paul's Home Computing Blog » WinCom7

  2. curiousone

    Can you go into why everyone does not have malware installled via just opening an email? It seems to easy and this kind of thing would lead to everyone having issues.

    Like say you do business with someone and they want to see everything you do. All they have to do is send you a regular biz email and imbedded the driveby. This could then allow the Guy to have A go to my PC view of everything you do right?

    Also since everyone gets email on their smartphones and they are insecure. Hackers would be using the email accounts on smartphones to send out drivebys to everyone on the email list. Since its from a friend people would open the emails and thus be infected.

    Seems like there must be more to it since I have not seen this happen. Can you go into how everyone gets email on their phones and do not have any issues with it? Think of all the businnes that would be spying on each other via smartphone mail. If smarrphones are so insecure can you explain why everyones email accounts are not all hacked?

    • Curiousone,
      You’re describing the situation that exists today with the wired world. And in my opinion, the reason it hasn’t affected the wireless world to any great extent is that the crooks either are having trouble making the switch to the mobile OSs or they’re simply making enough money on the wired users for now. The global cybercrime organizations that commit most of these crimes are very clever and resourceful, they are smart businessmen and take an MBA approach to their target “markets”. In other words, they will take the easiest route to the most money. And if sticking with the wired users is still lucrative, that’s where they’ll stay…for now.
      Thanks for your question.
      Paul

  3. curiousone

    Thanks Paul.

    So the way to protect yourself from the email issue would be to set your firewall to always ask to allow/deny new connections. Also setting your email to only allow plain text and no images would stop any of those codes from loading right?

    Where can you get a firewall and antiv-malware for a droid? Everyone reads their emails on there smart phones, is that safe to do, since email is totally insecure anyways? I don’t hear of people getting their emails hacked or messed with so I assume its okay.

    Thanks!

    • Curiousone,
      Your suggestions sound good, however, I’m not sure plain text emails will obviate a download executable…I’m not a programmer anymore. I don’t know of a firewall and AV for a Droid. Perhaps you could do a search of the Net for that information.
      Thanks for your comments and questions.
      Paul

  4. Curious

    Hey Paul,

    Great articles, I’m learning a lot! I read some old articles and did not understand how just opening an email can lead to a drive by download? Can you expand on that?

    I know you should not open emails from people you do not know but for all companies and businesses out there they get tons of emails. If it was really that easy to do a drive by download just by opening an email, every company would be able to steal all their competitors data just by sending a normal every day business email.

    Also I do not understand how everyone uses smartphones/blackberrys to surf the web and read email all day. There’s no firewalls or anti-malware on them. Do we not need that protection for our smartphones?

    Can people hack your smart phone just by being near you and intercepting the data, like they do on wi fi networks?

    thanks

    • Curiousone,
      Thanks for the kind words, I’m glad you like my stuff. Your question on how opening an email can lead to a drive by download, those emails contain an executable (program) or ActiveX component or Java applet (all can generate instructions to your computer), which, by design, run when triggered by someone opening the email. Then these programs may insert themselves or other code onto your computer…the “download”. That’s pretty simplified, but that’s how it’s done. Your question about smartphones/blackberrys and such is a good one too. The truth is that these devices have little or no protection. For example, Android based smartphones have been clobbered recently. Some manufacturers and security companies are rallying to the need, but not much is available yet. As I’ve stated in my article, I’d be very careful what I did using a smartphone, including banking transactions…NOT!, and surfing indiscriminately or dangerously (questionable sites) with any smartphone-like device right now. Hope this helps. And thanks for stopping by.
      Best,
      Paul

  5. Pingback: Five Minute Security Tip: Safe, Secure, Strong Passwords Will Increase Your Computer’s Safety | Paul’s Home Computing Blog » WinCom7 Blog

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