Ed Marsh’s review of our Bulletproofing Your Career Online Keynote and Workshop at the STC Philly Metro’s Mid Atlantic Technical Communication Conference in March 2013.
Let’s be honest. Passwords are a pain. We all know that it’s important to have different passwords for different places and we all know that they need to be fairly complex. We also know that remembering numerous passwords, especially strong passwords, can be a challenge. So what’s the best strategy?
In this article, I’ll talk about how to create memorable (but strong) passwords and suggest a tool that will make constructing and remembering strong passwords easier.
In general, the strength of a password depends on two factors: length and complexity. Although there’s some disagreement, length is more important than complexity. (For a humorous illustration of password complexity, read the XKCD comic at https://xkcd.com/936/)
Increased complexity makes it more difficult to create a password that you can remember. The idea of a long complex password may be overwhelming. However, increasing password length alone can result in a password that’s memorable and stronger. Because of the way Windows stores some passwords, the “magic number” is 15 characters or more. A traditional complex password of 15 characters might look like this: “qV0m$$#owc2h0X5”. I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’m going to remember a password like that. You COULD write it down and store it securely, but it’s not the easiest password to enter on a keyboard, and storing passwords in a browser or in a desktop application is insecure.
Here are a couple of strategies for strong passwords.
This would fit right into my Ten Tips to Shockproof Your Use of Social Media Lightning Talk, except that it probably takes more than 15 seconds to read.
Which of these passwords appears to be stronger? Are you surprised?
Passphrases are easy to remember and harder to crack!
How can you tell how secure your web browser may be? Scanit’s Browser Security Test checks your browser security settings and provides a report explaining the vulnerabilities, the potential impacts, and how to correct them.
Your security software should include an antivirus, anti-spyware, and a firewall.
Keep your browser and applications up to date. If you’re prompted for an update, accept it.
Use a strong complex password or passphrase. Consider using a password vault such as LastPass to generate and store your passwords.
Current browsers all provide some protection against phishing. There are also browser tools that you’ll find helpful.
Limiting account privileges (WindowsXP) provides simple but effective protection when working online. Limited accounts allow you to do most daily activities but do not allow you to install software (only accounts with administrative privileges can install software on the computer).
Many attacks take advantage of administrative privileges to install malware on your computer. If you’re using a limited account, attackers and malicious websites will not be able to install malware. (This is less of an issue with Windows 7 and Mac OS X because they ask you to confirm software changes.)
Threats have doubled since 2009 and the threat vectors have increased. Vigilance is even more important.
One thing hasn’t changed. The key to safe browsing is not which browser you choose. It’s following safe practices.
Please comment on the post and let us know some safe practices you recommend.