The Four Computer Dreads – Part 1: Passwords

passwords virus guyAhh, passwords: just that word can cause dread in the hearts of even the bravest computer user. But why should that be? Because we live in a crazy world where some people spend their days trying to leach off of others. And we all have things we’d rather be doing than dealing with passwords.

Any valid website you visit or service you use has a vested interest in you coming back and using their services, along with being safe while you do it. Passwords are a way of keeping you safe; a way of giving you a key to unlock their doors. But many computer users would prefer to have just one key, and then use it everywhere. Unfortunately, that’s a major way the crooks can take advantage of you.

How can I keep track of all my passwords?

The question you should ask before that is, “which web browser do I use?” On MacOS and iOS, the Safari web browser is designed to work within Apple’s entire ecosystem. Their built-in security app, Keychain Access, not only keeps track of all your existing passwords, but it can suggest truly excellent long and complex passwords for you to use AND synchronize with your iPhone or iPad so that using Safari on those devices gives you easy access to those same passwords.

So, what if you prefer using a different browser, such as Firefox or Chrome? Those browsers have their own methods of saving your passwords for you. They can also be synchronized with your iOS device, providing you use the Chrome or Firefox browser on your iOS device, too, which most people don’t, preferring to use the built-in Safari browser. For these alternative browsers, you can use a password manager.

If you want to use a standalone password manager, there are a few free and freemium options. I recommend LastPass, as it is free on a basic level, and also has an iOS app to go with it.

But even more important than that is ensuring that you always use unique passwords with every website or service you use.

Why is sharing a password amongst multiple sites such a bad idea?

If you use the same password at your bank as you do at a website for Shar Pei Lovers, its much more likely that the second site will get compromised. Then the people to whom they sell that password will try and break into your banking site.

Businesses are highly sensitive to the negative PR aspect of their own security breaches, and the public rarely hears about them until many months have gone by, increasing the odds that your accounts have already been compromised.

Your best defense against all of this is to use unique passwords for each of the sites or services you visit.

Here’s a wonderful 2-minute video outlining best-practices when it comes to passwords:

 

So to recap:

  • Make your passwords hard to guess
  • Go as long and complex as you can
  • Consider using a password manager
  • One account, one password.

Finally, always use a Strong Password. Try to use passwords at least 8-12 characters in length. Do not use your name or the name of a loved one or a pet, your date of birth, etc. as a password. Make sure it has at least one number and one special character, and avoid repeating characters. For example, “HowareyoudoingHaveaniceday” is a better password than “*&j(5@!” because it is so much longer.

Keeping your data safe is worth the relatively small investment in time it can take you to implement this. You can minimize the possibility of your accounts being compromised or worse, your identity stolen, and the ensuing nightmare that can be. An ounce of digital prevention is worth many pounds of cure and headaches.

If you want to read about the psychology of risky password behavior, there’s an article for that – here!

If this all seems like too much…

…and you would just like to have your passwords handled once and for all, to organize your Keychain or configure a password manager, give us a shout – we’ll be happy to help you get set up with all of this!

Coming Soon: The other three computer dreads. Stay tuned!

Troubleshooting, small business networks,
Macs, iPads, and printers
Device syncing, backups,
passwords and email accounts
OS and app optimization and updates, and
preventive maintenance