Posts Tagged ‘ online safety ’

How to Safeguard Online Accounts with Strong Passwords

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

With the prevalence of online accounts that provide convenience and connectivity comes a responsibility to safeguard our accounts to ensure that important personal information stays safe.  However, it can be quite a challenge to remember login credentials for the multitudes of online accounts.  It may be easier to have a single login and password combination but doing makes your account an easy target for hackers looking to harvest data.

How do you safeguard online accounts so personal information stays private? 

Having the same password for multiple accounts, or easy to remember passwords, are often the least secure because smart software programs can figure them out. A recent headline article on Yahoo revealed that the most common password is Password1. A study by antivirus security company, BitDefender, found that more than 250,000 email addresses, usernames and passwords can easily be found online. Randomly checking a sample list consisting of email addresses also revealed that 75% of social networking username and password samples are identical to those used for email accounts.

Unique login credentials for accounts decrease the possibility of hackers infiltrating accounts and stealing important information.  Spammers and those who want to infect your computer with malware love it when we use the same password for multiple accounts. It opens the door to numerous security implications such as personal data theft and hijacking of email and social network accounts.

In order to safeguard your information, here are some tips you can use to create stronger hack-proof passwords: 

  • Go beyond the required password length. The more characters, the less likely is that someone will be able to crack it.
  • When in doubt of your password, click on the retrieve password button on the site you visit to access your account and use the link sent through email to reset it.  Bank accounts will often lock you out with too many failed attempts to log in with an incorrect password.
  • Don’t store your many logins and passwords as a document on your computer in case of theft. If computer is stolen, a thief has access to a treasure trove of information if you keep your password in a Word Document called “passwords.”  If you must write down your passwords, do so in a plain looking address book that won’t draw attention to itself on your desk or in a drawer.  The Internet Password Organizer and ___ can be a convenient place to keep passwords.
  • Set an automatic calendar reminder to change your passwords monthly, or at the very least, every 3 months.
  • Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. For example, use your pet’s name (Spot) and an important date such as an anniversary (February 26).  Ordinarily the password would be Spot226 but instead, use a combination of capital letters combined with symbols, letters, and numbers to make it much harder to guess.

If you must use the same password, use a different variation of it. Here are some different ways you could modify Spot226:

  • spottwotwosix (spell out all the numbers)
  • sp0ttw0tw0six (substitute zeros for o)
  • $pot2two$ix (use $ instead of the s)
  • sPottWotWosIx (insert capital letters where they are less likely to appear- in this case, the second letter in each word)

What other tips do you have for protecting your accounts to preserve your online identity? Do you have a good way to remember your many passwords? Please share!

Laptop with steel security lock via Shutterstock

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5 Things Parents Can Do to Protect Children on the Internet

Friday, February 10th, 2012

The internet is a treasure trove of information that also can also present real risks for kids of all ages. Rather than going to the extremes of banning the use of digital devices (computers, tablets, phones, etc.) in the home, be practical and exercise good judgment. Take some simple steps in order to protect your family online.

The following five suggestions serve as starting points for every family.

Establish guidelines for the use of digital devices. Guidelines will vary according to age but general ones for all ages include limiting screen time, standards for appropriate online behavior, being careful not to share too much information online, and being sure that other caregivers respect and uphold your family’s rules for using devices when looking after your children.

Locate the computer in the hub of your home. Placing the family computer in a high traffic area allows you to keep an eye on what your child is doing. While teens may value their privacy, a computer in a bedroom means not being able to see what programs they are using, who they are talking to, or what information they may be sharing. Having the computer in a central location also encourages more conversations about what is on the screen rather than isolation.

Have a discussion about the meaning of privacy. Whether online or off, some things need to remain private. Since there is a certain sense of anonymity online, it can be difficult for some to comprehend that the internet is a very public place where the tidbits that are shared remain forever. Status updates, tweets, check-ins, blog posts, and photos create a digital footprint that is forever archived online and can’t be taken back. Trusting children also need to know that it is even more important to only share information with those you know and trust since not everyone appearing to be your friend online really is.

Check settings and security on programs to ensure personal privacy and use filtering software. Even with the computer located in a common area of your home, it is impossible to monitor all activity. Filtering software and parental controls can aid in blocking unwanted or inappropriate content while adjusting settings on internet browsers and social networking tools helps ensure that personal information is only shared with trusted networks.

Create an open dialogue. Talk to your children about internet dangers and be willing to learn about the things your kids are doing online and the common lingo. If you don’t know something, ask them! Allowing your child to act as your teacher can be very empowering. It not only helps create a culture of respect, but demonstrates that the adults in their lives are willing to work with them in order to keep them safe both online and in real life.

What do you do to ensure that your kids stay safe while online?

Image of Kids Using Tablet PC via Shutterstock

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