Internet Security

I would love to tell you that the Internet is a safe place and that there is no reason for you to protect your password. Unfortunately, there are a LOT of people out there who would LOVE to break into your account and "use your account as a base for operations (1)."

How prevalent is this? According to Mike Godwin, Chief Legal Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it's "fairly common." (1)

The main defense against people who want to break into your account -- a.k.a. "crackers" -- is your password. Keep your password secure, and you should never have anything to worry about. Give your password to others, or write your password down and put it near your computer, and ... well, you get the picture.

There are some KEY points you need to remember to protect yourself and your account:

  • NEVER give your password to anyone (1). The whole purpose of having a password in the first place is to ensure that no one other than you can use your account.

  • NEVER write your password down, and especially never write your password anywhere near your computer.

  • NEVER let anyone look over your shoulder while you enter your password. "Shoulder Surfing" is the most common way that accounts are hacked.

  • NEVER e-mail your password to anyone.

  • DO change your password on a regular basis (1). There is no better way to thwart a would-be cracker than to change your password as often as possible. Your local Internet service provider will be able to tell you your system's recommendation on how often you should change your password, but a good rule of thumb is to change it at least every three months.

  • DON'T pick a password that is found in the dictionary (1). When you set your password, it is encrypted and stored into a file. It is really easy for a "cracker" to find your password by encrypting every word in the dictionary, and then looking for a match between the words in his encrypted dictionary and your encrypted password. If he finds a match, he has your password and can start using your account at will.

  • DON'T use passwords that are foreign words. The hacker can get a foreign dictionary, and ...

  • NEVER use your userid as your password. This is the easiest password to crack.

  • DON'T choose a password that relates to you personally (2) or that can easily be tied to you. Some good examples of BAD passwords are: your name, your relatives' names, nicknames, birth dates, license plate numbers, social security numbers (US), work ID numbers, and telephone numbers.

  • DO use a password that is at least eight characters long and that has a mix of letters and numbers. The minimum length of a password should be four to six characters long.

  • NEVER use the same password on other systems or accounts.

  • ALWAYS be especially careful when you telnet or rlogin to access another computer over the Net. When you telnet or rlogin, your system sends your password in plain text over the Net. Some crackers have planted planted programs on Internet gateways for the purpose of finding and stealing these passwords. If you have to telnet frequently, change your password just as frequently. If you only telnet occasionally, say, for business trips, set up a new password (or even a new account) just for the trip. When you return, change that password (or close out that account).
The best passwords -- the ones that are the easiest for you to remember, and the ones that are the hardest for crackers to crack -- are passwords that are like those fake words you used to create when you would cram for a test. For example, to remember that "the Law of Demand is the inverse relationship between price and quantity demanded," I created the word TLODITIRBP&QD. NO ONE could hack that as a password. Best of all, its EASY to remember (well, its easy for an economist to remember).

Here are a couple of other good passwords:

   Sentence                                Possible password

In 1976 I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma I76IMTTO
The conference lost 12,000 dollars TCL12KD
U of A Crimson Tide Football is #1 UACTFI#1
Sentences are EASY to remember, and they make passwords that are nearly impossible to break (and please do NOT use these sample passwords as your own).

Do NOT use well known abbreviations (for example: wysiwyg), and do NOT use keyboard patterns (for example: qwerty) as your password.

If you notice weird things happening with your account:

  1. Change your password IMMEDIATELY!
  2. Tell your local Internet service provider about it.
It is very common for someone whose account has been hacked to dismiss the signs that the account has been hacked as technical problems with the system. However, when one account is hacked, it very often puts the whole system at risk.

Finally, there is one last thing that I want to say before I close: I feel that "hacking" and "cracking" so violates the spirit of the Internet that I will do everything in my power to help put the overgrown babies who engage in such activities where they belong -- behind bars. Until that time comes, however, I'm going to change my password as often as possible.

Posted bySumedh at 11:48 PM  


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