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calendar   Friday - August 07, 2009

Protect Your PC

Worst Passwords of All Time




Passwords are a pain in the tail. But they have become an aspect of our everyday lives. Use your ATM card at the store, enter your PIN. That’s a password. Access your bank account online, enter a password. Log onto BMEWS to make a comment, enter your password. You can’t get away from them.

Lots of people use short, simple passwords that are meaningful to them and easy to remember. Birthdays, Social Security Numbers, favorite colors, the name of your secret fantasy movie star. And these are all very unsecure and easy to crack, especially by anyone who knows a bit about you.

Sarah Palin had her email hacked during the ‘08 campaign. She had an account on Yahoo, and somebody was able to reset her password by properly guessing the clues that Yahoo asked for in their “I forgot my password” area. Most places have that kind of area, and most of them use pretty common questions, which defeats the whole concept of passwords. Some banks and credit card companies have come up with a few new questions since then. It’s a small help, but only a small one.

Lots of people use just a couple of passwords for almost everything. I know I do. Trying to remember the 70 or so passwords I need to log onto various forums, blogs, my accounts at any number of business pages, etc., is impossible. Sure, I could write them all down. Or I could let Windows “remember” them for me. Not a chance, no thanks. And even if I did write them down, I’d hide the list somewhere smarter than the underside of my keyboard or taped to the back of the monitor. Duh.

I do not let my computer store anything about anything, not even browser history, cookies, Most Recently Used lists, nada. I am forever stripping information out of my PC by using CCleaner, MRUBlaster, and RegCure daily. I have an old co-ax A/B switch on the back of my computer, so that when I am not online I can physically disconnect my computer from the internet. I only do online business with places that don’t store my credit card information. Any bills that I throw out go through the bi-directional shredder. And I check my credit rating and my Social Security a couple times a year, just to keep an eye on things. So far, I have never had any kind of problems, but hacking and identity theft happen. You have to be aware, and you have to act smart.

I have one “don’t care” password I use for all the blogs and web sites I need to log on to. It’s of reasonable length, and has nothing to do with any aspect of my life. I use serious, unique passwords for all my credit card and banking sites, and my private email. And I change those at least twice a year. I don’t pay for any credit card “protection”, but I do have credit cards with companies that will alert me if something unusual occurs.

It turns out that most people don’t do anything as “extreme”. Most folks still use passwords that are short, simple, and easily guessed by people who know them even a little. Bad form.

By the way, I can not read your passwords here. Even though I own this blog and have access to everything right down to the database tables and the blog template source code, I can not read your member password. I can reset it if necessary, but I can’t see it.

So, what to do? Try making a smarter password. Add numbers, spaces, and special characters if you can. Then run the new password past the Microsoft password strength checker (there are others too) to see if it scores at least a “medium”. And figure out a “best” password for each online credit card and bank account that you access.

Passwords not to use? Here is a list of the 500 lamest ones. “abc123”. “password”. “letmein”. Oh come on, you have to do better than that these days!

You want a good password? Are you a car junkie, or a gun nut? “454 Ch3vy R0cks!” meets all the criteria for a “best” rating. It even has a tiny bit of “leet” in it, which can help. (substituting 4 for A, 3 for E, 1 for I, 0 for O adds a lot to password strength. Many places do not let you use spaces or special characters) Another strong one is “Marlin 336 .30-30”. And they are especially good if you don’t have one of either. “I Love Lucy” only rates a “medium”, and it isn’t on that list of 500, but if people know that’s your favorite TV show, then it’s a poor choice.

So be smart. Just in case.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 08/07/2009 at 01:59 PM   
Filed Under: • CrimeSelf-Defense •  
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