Pass the Word on Passwords
A recent survey conducted by ZoneAlarm revealed that 79% of computer users have passwords that are considered risky.  Any password that is easily guessable is considered risky. 
The survey resulted in a list of the top 20 most commonly used passwords.  In numerical order, they are as follows:

There you have it.  Are you surprised?  Do you use any of these passwords?  Be honest.  If you do, you should know that the "bad guys" are also aware of this list.  In fact, these passwords, and others like them, are usually the first ones they will try when attempting to break into your accounts.  Feeling a little less secure?  Want to know how to build better passwords?  Read on.

Creating Strong Passwords

Coming up with a good password is not rocket science.  All it takes is a little time and thought.  The trick is to develop passwords that are difficult to guess, but are easy to remember.

First of all, a strong password is one that is 8 characters in length or greater, and contains a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.  The goal is to make the password complex enough that the bad guys cannot figure it out, even with sophisticated password guessing programs.

Cxrt4!yud99&eGX3 is an example of a great password because it is extremely difficult to guess, but it is also very difficult for the user to remember.  Here is a quick, two-step process for creating strong, but memorable passwords.

Step 1 - Develop a Phrase that is Easy to Remember

     Example:  I often enjoy vacationing in the south of France during summer!

Step 2 - Create a Password from the Phrase


Now we have a password that is 15 characters long, contains upper- and lower-case letters, a number, and a special character.  The process involved simply taking the initial letter of each word in the phrase to form the password.  Then we substituted a number for a letter (the 'o' in often became a zero), mixed case, and ended with a special character.  To make the password even longer, we added most of the word 'enjoy.'

If you feel the password is just too long, you can create a shorter phrase, but remember that you want your password to have a minimum of 8 characters.

Note:  Please don't use this example for your password.

Password Re-use

Because people tend to have multiple accounts, either locally on their computer, or online, the temptation is to use the same password for every account (particularly if they have a favorite password that is easy to remember).  This is a dangerous practice for the reason that should the password fall into the hands of another person, they now have access to all of the accounts "protected" by that password.

The best practice is to have an unique strong password for each account.  So how do you remember all of those passwords?  The simple solution is to use a password safe program.  Such programs allow you to record and securely store all of your passwords in one place.

Two examples of password safe programs are KeyPass and PasswordSafe.  Both are easily downloaded and installed.  Best of all, they are free!

Password Tips from Kaspersky Lab

Watch this short discussion on best practices for creating and managing passwords.


Encryption for Mobile Devices

Protecting data on your mobile device is an important consideration.

Do you have private, confidential information saved on your laptop, USB flash drive, or smartphone?  What if it were lost or stolen?

Of course you guard that shiny new notebook or smartphone with your life, but are you willing to take the risk of having your personal data fall into the hands of someone else?

Many of these concerns can be mitigated through the use of encryption.  In the case of laptops or USB flash drives, you have the choice of encrypting the entire hard drive,  or you can simply encrypt a specific folder.

Either way, if you and your mobile device part ways, at least you can take comfort in knowing that your confidential data is secure and virtually inaccessible.





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