Friday, March 2, 2012

10 password tips for a safer online experience

Create unique password every time. When you are changing a password for an existing account, it should not be the same as the previous password. Also, do not use incremental passwords while changing it. i.e password1, password2 etc.

Change your passwords for all your accounts once every 6 months. Since passwords have a fixed length, a brute-force attack to guess the password will always succeed if enough time and processing power was available to the attacker. So, it is always recommended to change the passwords often. Schedule an recurring appointment on your calendar to change your passwords once every 6 month.

Related: Top 20 Most Common Passwords

Never write down your passwords. Creating a very strong password and writing it down on a paper is as bad as creating an easy to remember weak password and not writing it down anywhere. There are several interesting surveys done on this subject, where it was found that several people write down the password and keep it somewhere next to the computer. Some of them think keeping the post-it note below the mouse pad is secure enough. You should never write down the password on a paper. If you want to carry your password along with you all the times, use a password manager tool that runs from USB stick and take that with you all the times. 

Don’t share with anyone. Anyone includes your friends and family. Probably you might have heard the phrase “Passwords are like underwear, don’t share with anybody”. We teach our kids several things in life. Teaching them about online safety and not sharing the password with anybody should be one of them. 

Never keep the same password for two different sites. It is very tempting to create one set of passwords for all your emails, another password for all the banking sites, another password for all the social networking sites etc. Avoid this temptation and keep unique passwords for all your accounts. 

Don’t type your password when someone is looking over your shoulder. This is especially very important if you type slowly and search for the letters in the keyboard and type with one finger, as it is very easy for someone looking over your shoulder to figure out the password. 

Never send your password to anybody in an email. If you follow #3 mentioned above, this should not be an option. But the reason I’m specifically saying about this is because several hackers send emails as a support person and asking for your user name and password through email. Legitimate website or organization will never ask you for your user name and password either via email or over telephone. 

Change password immediately when they are compromised. Even if you have the slightest doubt that someone might have stolen your password, change it immediately. Don’t even waste a minute. 

Don’t use the “Remember password” option on the browser without setting the Master Password. Don’t use this feature of the browser to store your username and passwords without enabling the “Master Password” option. If you don’t set master password on the firefox browser, anybody who uses your firefox browser can see all the passwords that are stored in the firefox browser in plain text. Also, be very careful with this option and say ‘Not Now’ in the remember password pop-up, when you are using a system that doesn’t belong to you. 

Don’t type your password on a computer that does not belong to you. If possible, don’t use someone else computer that you don’t trust to login to any website, especially to very sensitive website such as banking. It is a very common practice for hackers to use key loggers that will log all the key strokes on a system, which will capture everything you type including the passwords.


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