Passwords (Part 1)

are like keys,…

they open things; BUT can be lost, copied and stolen.

Here are a few ways to keep what is behind locked doors safe and secure:

  • Long and Strong

Passwords should be “long”, minimum 12, ideally 20+ or the longest they will allow. Complex makes it “strong” with lower and capital letters, a few numbers and special characters like #$%^&. Best passwords are passphrases. A long sentence like password, something like: “PasswordAreBestIfLongAndStrong555&”. Throw in a few Capitals, a few numbers and some type of symbol.

  • Not Easily Guessed

Avoid personal information like birthdays, anniversaries, addresses, nicknames, favorite sports, kids, pets. Nothing that could be guessed by snooping on your social media sites. This is where poor spelling is a plus. Nothing like the first row of letters QWERTY, 12345, 1qazxsw2 or the most used password “password”.

  • Change Regularly

Some websites suggest changing annually, some only when there is a breach. Stay informed of sites that have been hacked.

  • Safe and Secure

Do not keep your passwords on sticky notes, under your keyboard, in a file on your computer or even saved in your browser. These are the first place thieves will look. Instead, use an encrypted password vault; many are free and easy to use. Our favorites are Bitwarden and LastPass, they both have free versions.

  • Unique

Every lock has its own key, every website and device needs its own password. You have a different key for your car, house, a shed and the safety deposit box. Websites and devices need different passwords as well. A thief that gets one password from a breach for one site, then has access to all your accounts. Also, do not slightly modify passwords such as Facebook – FB12345, Gmail – GM12345, Amazon – Am12345… establishing a pattern only makes you just as vulnerable.

  • Extra Layer

Imagine driving in your car and being stopped by police, you might be asked to produce your license and registration. At a bank you may need your license and social security number. A business may have a key to the lock and then a code for the alarm system. The digital world has two proofs of identity too. One is your password and the other is usually a code sent to your phone or email. The is called 2FA or 2 Factor Authentication. Yes, this extra step is annoying, but so is being hacked.

  • Logout

When you are done on a sensitive site like banking, shopping or your main email, logout. Close your browser when done for the day or about to travel with your laptop. Set your browser to clear all cookies when the browser is closed. This way, when you come back, you will need to enter your credentials again.

Be safe.

Above the Fold

Extra, Extra, Read all about it

I am old enough to remember newspapers on my doorstep with flashy headlines on the upward facing part of the newspaper referred to as “above the fold”.

The digital world has an “above the fold” too.

As of the writing of the post, the Coronavirus is the breaking news.

Google Search – When you do a Google search, there are websites that have paid extra to be “above the fold”. Always be sure to hover over the URL (the https:….) and see where the link is actually taking you. Scammers know everyone will be rushing to “search” for the latest news, and they want be the top choice. Be alert.

Email – Emails can be spoofed to look like they are coming from an official agency. When you get an email you did not request, treat it as already infected. Hover your mouse over the sender’s name and see if it matches the sender. Do a search for the company or agency and see what their web address is.

Facebook – Facebook’s “above the fold” is a little like supermarket tabloids. These can be in the form of Quizzes, Games, Share This, Fake News and other related Scams. When something pops up on your Newsfeed, STOP and check it out first. If it is breaking news, lost child, or some tragic headline that just captivates you; do a quick search. Look below the fold for multiple, authentic, and reliable news. Notice the date the article was shared. Often fake news is old news, just recirculated.

So what’s the harm? Visiting a fraudulent website could con you into entering your personal information. Opening a spoofed email could have you unsuspectingly downloading a virus. Playing a game or answering a quiz on Facebook could have you sharing private information about yourself. With enough private information, a thief could gain access to your banking and credit information.

So, slow down, read, review, wash your hands and stop touching your face.

Backups

We are going to go through the “Why, Where and How” of Backups.

WHY?

Why we backup is as simple at the reason we don’t we put all our eggs in one basket? If we trip and fall, we might break all our eggs.

Tripping and falling with our laptop could destroy all of our pictures, documents and other valuable digital media.

Laptops, Desktops and Phones may not be as fragile as eggs, but they are still susceptible to damage from liquid spills, drops, electrical surges, flood, fire and even age. The average life expectancy of a harddrive is 3-5 years.

In addition to physical damage to a drive, there is loss and theft of our devices.

Where?

Where should you save your “eggs”?  Your data (photos, documents, media…) should exist in 3 locations:

  1. The device itself whether your computer or phone.
  2. Local refers to some physical device right there at your desk. This can be a simple in expensive thumb drives to an external harddrive to a local NAS (Network Attached Storage Device).  Your choice of devices will depend on a bunch of factors such as price, size and business or pleasure.
  • A flash drive also known as a thumb drive because of its size and shape is certainly the cheapest. It is great for simple short term storage or transferring a file. It is, however, NOT meant for long term backup.
  • An external harddrive is a small device about the size of a man’s wallet. It is great for most home and business users. The drawback is that it isn’t able to be accessed by multiple users or used as a share.
  • A NAS is great for businesses and families to have multiple users backing up at once and sharing files.
  • Each of these local, physical choices have the ability to have a backup of your data apart from the original location, BUT they still be damaged by drops, theft, fire, and floods.

3. This brings us to “The Cloud”. There is a lot of controversy and fear among those who don’t understand what the cloud is. Put simply, it is somebody else’s computer or a data center. The cloud allows your data to be stored offsite where things like theft, fire and flood of your home or business cannot damage it. Depending on the amount of storage you need, your budget and any compliance issues, there are many safe and affordable solutions.