It may seem like everyone is out to get you…the slowest line at the grocery store is the one you are in, the school crossing guard makes you wait after you drop your kids off, and you find your morning newspaper in the rose bushes.
The world may or may not be out to get you but there is one group that is definitely out to get you– computer hackers.
We’ve discussed the need for security on your computer; things like antivirus protection, Internet security measures, and routine spyware disposal.
All of those things protect your computer and the information stored on it. But what about your information that is stored in cyberspace by your bank, online stores or your employer?
Chances are their network security measures are quite sufficient.
One way that would-be intruders can gain access to your information is by cracking your password.
Password selection is essential to good security.
You wouldn’t invest in a state-of-the-art home security system and then leave the back door wide open.
An improper password is the equivalent of having an open-door policy with your valuable information.
Let’s take a look at how to make a password that will stand guard at your door.
First, it’s important to remember that hackers use a variety of methods to crack your password.
Some use complicated math to systematically try every combination possible.
Others use “custom dictionaries” that list common combinations of letters and/or numbers.
Many hackers also seek to obtain your password by posing as your bank or Internet service provider.
Now that we know how passwords are typically compromised, let’s get to work.
To combat the complicated math method, we need to have a password that is so random that it will take years to discover.
Generally, passwords that are over eight characters in length, employ a mix of capital and lowercase letters, and use letters, numbers, and other symbols work best.
As your password grows in complexity, it becomes exponentially harder to crack.
To fight against the dictionary hackers, be sure to choose random combinations.
Common words, names, and number patterns are probably already in these sinister dictionaries.
Avoid using phrases like ilovemydog or password123. Try substituting numbers for letters or vice versa.
Don’t get too creative, though, and forget your password.
Try to think of something that will be easy to remember but random enough to fool a hacker.
The last way to hack a password, and maybe the most common, is to simply ask for it.
Never give out your password over the phone or in email communication.
Hackers can be sneaky, so be on your toes.
Another good practice is to change your password regularly.
Even if you change only a few letters, make sure that you always have a fresh set of characters that hackers will have to crack.
In the words of Clifford Stoll: “Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don’t let anybody use it, and get a new one every six months.”
A computer problem specialists is always available to answer your questions or to help update your computer’s security.
Call (928) 468-0000 to speak with a trained technician.
The world isn’t really out to get you.
There are just a few cyber-criminals who make life more difficult for all of us.
Oh yeah, and there’s that paperboy, too.
Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.