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Anne Bubnic

Play It Safe: Hackers use the back door to get into your computer; a strong, well-chose... - 0 views

  • For the home user, however, password safety requires more than on-the-fly thinking. Pacheco suggests a system built around a main word for all instances. The distinction is that the name of the site is added somewhere. For example, if the main word is "eggplant," the password might be "eggyyplant" Yahoo, "eggplantgg" for Google or "wleggplant" for Windows Live. He suggests listing the variations in an Excel spreadsheet.
  • Password security is a big deal, and if you don't think it is, then someone might be hacking into your computer even as you read this.

    A strong password isn't foolproof, but it proves that you're no fool. And it might protect you from compromised data, a broken computer or identity theft.

    Your bank account, your personal e-mails and lots of other stuff are at risk with weak passwords.

  • "A good password is the most important part of Internet security," said Robert Pacheco, the owner of Computer Techs of San Antonio. "It's the beginning and end of the issue. You can't stop it (hacking). You do what you can do to prevent it. You just try to stop most of it."

    A strong firewall, as well as spyware -- and virus-detection software -- protect a computer's so-called "back door," Pacheco said, where a hacker can gain access through various cyber threats. Those threats include infected e-mail attachments; phishing Web pages that exploit browser flaws; downloaded songs or pictures with hidden trojans; or plain ol' poking-and-prodding of a computer's shields.

    But passwords protect information from a frontal assault by way of the computer's keyboard.

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  • Other people use easy-to-remember passwords. Trouble is, Rogers said, they're easy-to-guess passwords, too. Good examples of bad passwords are your name, your family's names, your pet's name, the name of your favorite team, your favorite athlete or your favorite anything.

    Get to know the person -- a technique that geeks refer to as "social engineering" -- and the password is easy to guess. There are message-board stalkers who can guess passwords in a half-dozen tries.

    Hackers rely on a lot of methods. Some, Rogers said, employ "shoulder surfing." That means what it sounds like -- looking over someone's shoulder as that person is typing in a password.

  • Other people use easy-to-remember passwords. Trouble is, Rogers said, they're easy-to-guess passwords, too. Good examples of bad passwords are your name, your family's names, your pet's name, the name of your favorite team, your favorite athlete or your favorite anything
  • The type of hardware being used can be a clue, said Rogers, a senior technical staffer in the CERT Program, a Web security research center in Carnegie-Mellon University's software engineering institute. It's easy to find a default password, typically in the user's manual on a manufacturer's Web site. If the user hasn't changed the default, that's an easy break-in.
  • Hackers rely on a lot of methods. Some, Rogers said, employ "shoulder surfing." That means what it sounds like -- looking over someone's shoulder as that person is typing in a password
  • Most of the password hacking activity these days goes on at homes, in school or in public settings. These days, many workplaces mandate how a password is picked.
  • The idea is to choose a password that contains at least one uppercase letter, one numeral and at least eight total characters. Symbols are good to throw in the mix, too. Many companies also require that passwords be changed regularly and that pieces of older ones can't be re-used for months. And user names cannot be part of the password. Examples: Eggplant99, 99eggpLanT, --eggp--99Lant. For the next quarter, the password might change to variations on "strawberry.
  • The idea is to choose a password that contains at least one uppercase letter, one numeral and at least eight total characters. Symbols are good to throw in the mix, too. Many companies also require that passwords be changed regularly and that pieces of older ones can't be re-used for months. And user names cannot be part of the password. Examples: Eggplant99, 99eggpLanT, --eggp--99Lant. For the next quarter, the password might change to variations on "strawberry."
  •  
    Password security is a big deal, and if you don't think it is, then someone might be hacking into your computer even as you read this. A strong password isn't foolproof, but it proves that you're no fool. And it might protect you from compromised data, a broken computer or identity theft. Your bank account, your personal e-mails and lots of other stuff are at risk with weak passwords.
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