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Sloppy Passwords? 9 Tips to Beat Hackers

password lockIt's easy to become paranoid about passwords. It's even easier to find articles that can turn that paranoia into an absolute fear of typing your password into anything. Nicole Perlroth (here writing for the New York Times) perhaps doesn't help if you're already paranoid. She had set up unique, complex passwords for all sites she logged into and two step verification where possible. After calming down a bit, she had two instances where people were either trying to get into her Google account or into her computer directly. Perlroth notes how easy it is to get hacked: all it takes is one click on a bad link and you've compromised 95% of the security inherent on your computer. Even if you're good about not clicking on suspicious links, hackers can use simple applications to discover your password and get into your private or business sensitive data. Everyone will get hacked at some point, and most times it comes down to not having intelligent passwords . The article lists 9 ways to help get – at the very least – the password situation under control. The first tip listed is to forget the dictionary. If the hacker knows your login name, it will just be a matter of seconds before they apply a hacking program that tests all words found in the dictionary. It comes down to numbers: if your password can't be found in the dictionary, Hackers will typically move on quickly to find the easy win. Another tip that Pelroth's article features is to not use security questions like people would expect you to:

  There is a limited set of answers to questions like “What is your favorite color?” and most answers to questions like “What middle school did you attend?” can be found on the Internet. Hackers use that information to reset your password and take control of your account. Earlier this year, a hacker claimed he was able to crack into Mitt Romney's Hotmail and Dropbox accounts using the name of his favorite pet. A better approach would be to enter a password hint that has nothing to do with the question itself. For example, if the security question asks for the name of the hospital in which you were born, your answer might be: “Your favorite song lyric.” 

Here's an interesting suggestion from Jeremiah Grossman, chief technology officer at WhiteHat Security: just hit your keyboard at random to make the password. Grossman will jam his fingers all over his keyboard, hitting shift and ALT at random. He then copies that result onto a file within an encrypted USB drive. Not only does a hacker have much less of a chance to determine what the password is, but there is a very high chance that you won't know what your password is, either! (Just don't lose that USB drive.)

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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