Don’t Be a Password Moron
So your college’s administration has finally come through on its promise to replace the Paleolithic machines in your department with new computers. The delivery guys have hauled them in and uncrated them. The computer guys have come in and installed the software and whatever else it is they do.
Now you’re sitting in front of your brand new machine, excited as a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning. All you need to do is type in a password and you’re off and running.
But wait. Don’t just type “password,” or, heaven forbid, your name. Be original. Be offbeat. Above all, don’t be obvious.
Why bother, you say?
Consider this: Armed with password cracking software that’s freely available on the Internet, a hacker can guess upward of 70,000 passwords per second.
Now ask yourself if there’s anything you’ll have on your computer — personal letters, student grades, e-mailed jokes in questionable taste, etc. — that you’d mind having float off into the World Wide Web for all to see.
If, having read this far, you’re finally reconsidering your years-old habit of making “goteam” or “computer” your password, keep these helpful hints in mind:
•Use something you’ll remember, but nothing that might be floating around in a database somewhere. In other words, don’t use your mother’s maiden name or your address or the city you were born in. If an intruder does his homework, most of that information is pretty easy to find. Use the nickname your infant brother gave you when he was teething and couldn’t pronounce your name quite correctly.
• Don’t use any words that can be found in a dictionary. In any language. (What, you thought hackers didn’t think of using one of those free online dictionary services?)
• Make sure your password is at least six characters long.
• Try to include different types of alphanumeric letters in your password. (To think up some of these, just think of that long, tortuous meeting you have coming up. Yes, “#%&*!!” works just fine. If your new computer system’s password field is case sensitive (able to recognize the difference between upper- and lower-case letters in the password blank), consider using a combination of them to throw potential hackers off the track.
•Don’t reuse old passwords, or use the same one on different applications
•Don’t share your password with other users.
•Don’t use a sticky note to post your password on your monitor (duh).
Aaron Richardson, MCSE, MCDBA, is a Microsoft-certified systems engineer and multimedia Web developer. Serving as webmaster for Black Issues, he can be reached at email@example.com or at his Web site, www.rubberdoor.com.
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