Computer Care: The password is ... Best bet is to mix it up
POSTED: October 19, 2012 11:59 p.m.
Passwords are part of computing; there is no way around that. If you use a computer and the Internet, you will eventually need to use them. You may or may not need a password to log onto your computer, but one was needed to get your email this morning. Even if you didn’t have to manually type one in, your computer recalled it for you.
I use a password manager and also allow Google Chrome to remember my passwords for me. There are 15 or so of them that I refer to on a regular basis to access various websites like email, my cloud storage, Amazon and other ecommerce sites that I frequent.
There are also banking PIN numbers, alarm keypad codes and wireless router keys which are forms of passwords. You may use one to gain entry to your smart phone.
Call them what you will, but any series of alpha-numeric codes you use to access something secretly is a password.
There is no easy way for most of us to remember all of those codes, especially when choosing different ones for each site or application.
If you use the same password for all of your websites and accounts, all could be compromised if just one is. So why take a chance?
The poor choices are the obvious ones like your birthday or anniversary dates, your street, pet or your children’s names. Don’t choose the easy options. Stir it up a bit.
Spell out anything that you can remember. Chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate syrup becomes ccicwcs; then add a number or symbol or caps. The end result could be CCiCwCs9*.
Stir things up even more; spell things backward. A. Jones becomes senoja, then add numbers, caps or symbols to spice it up, like senojA5#. Be creative.
Instead of your dog’s name, try using mydogbubba. Add caps or symbols for even more security as in mydogbubbA*7 or shorten it to dogbubbA*7. Backward, bubba becomes abbub.
While on the topic of passwords and email, spam is something we all unfortunately get with email. One of the easiest ways to get spam is by having your email address sold to online merchants. The best way to avoid that is to be careful to whom and where you use your email address.
Many times when you subscribe to a newsletter or sign up for something, it’s stated your address won’t be sold. Often times though, it is. That’s where most spam originates.
One way to avoid this is to create secondary additional Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or other accounts that you won’t regularly check or only to verify a subscription that you just signed up for. When the inbox is full on this throw-away account, just sign up for another.
An alternative is to use a Disposable Email Account. I use yopmail, but there are many others to choose from.
They include Dispostable, Dudmail, MailExpire, DeadAddress, Spamex, Incognito Mail, Dodgeit, Yopmail and Mailinator. All work basically the same way. You create a name, they offer an extension and a duration with most adding the ability to check the account for incoming mail.
Sometimes you can get away with simply making up an address with a nonexistent domain and have it work. I’ve used firstname.lastname@example.org, but if a response is required, then that strategy won’t work.
Recently, I signed up for a free sample online that required me to click on a link in an email to verify my address. Using yopmail, I created an address on the fly and checked it from their site (the same page I used to create it) a few minutes later. There was the link.
You don’t need to commit anything to memory; just create a new name next time you need a DEA.
Remember to change your passwords regularly. Use password managers like LastPass, Roboform or Password Safe to help you recall them. Although less secure, you could simply allow your browser to remember them for you.
Visit pwnedlist.com to see if your email address has ever been hacked.
Choose passwords that are unique for every account, not the same one for all of them and give them to no one.
The longer the better. Use at least eight to 10 characters and mix them up with caps, numbers and symbols.
There’s a password generator at random.org if you have trouble on your own.
Don’t fall for phishing scams. Beware of any emails or websites asking you to provide sensitive personal information. Not even your bank will ask you for your password.
Avoid using addresses, birthdays or dog’s names.
To circumvent spam effectively, use disposable email accounts.
The end result will yield higher security for your accounts with less paranoia about being hacked.
As easy as it has become these days to have your privacy compromised, you want to make it as difficult as you possibly can.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on gainesvilletimes.com.