Thursday, August 2, 2012

Abracadabra: Creating (and remembering!) an Amazing Password

Next time you walk into your office place your purse or wallet and keys in the middle of your desk and leave it there for hours on end. Walk away. I dare you.

You wouldn't do it, would you? Why?

Well, because it's valuable. It has your identification, your credit cards, and your keys.

And yet, you just leave it underneath the desk where your feet are.

Don't give me that look. I know we all do it. At least every once in awhile. And I know you all know that it's a little on the insecure side. Especially when we visit the powder room (yes, I did just call it that) or the water cooler.

Today, I want to see if I can convince you to lock it up entirely. Or at the very least to shove it behind the trashcan where it can't be seen by the casual observer.

Actually, while your purse or wallet is a very valuable thing, I'm going to be talking about something even more valuable: your passwords.

We store pretty much everything online nowadays. Movies, relationships, calendars, contacts, creative innovations, financial information, health information, credit card information, the list goes on and on. And just think! ALL THAT is protected under one or two passwords because we are too lazy to try and remember a separate password for every account.

Yeah, that was my face, too.

Having a different password for every account is probably the most widely known (and the most ignored) tip regarding secure passwords. However, it is not the only one. Here are the 5 most important tips to help you secure your accounts properly:

1) Make it long. A secure password is 10 characters or more and does not necessarily include numbers or symbols (though many accounts require it). The longer the password the harder it is to figure it out. For example, if I am trying to crack a four number code, all I would have to do is try each variation (in math terms it's "permutations"): 0000, 0001, 0002, etc all the way up to 9999. It might take me a long time, but it would take hardly any time at all for a computer to try them all.
However, if you have a long password - that's a lot more possible combinations of letters! And the best part is, it doesn't have to be a random collection of letters. "Thequickbrownfoxjumpedoverthelazydog" will work just as well as "qpalsodkeufjghcmgheyahsjdmwoxmfjgbxz" because they both have the same number of letters and possible combinations.
So don't stress yourself out about it. Long doesn't have to mean hard to remember. Just hard to crack.

2) Use different passwords for everything. Using the same password for multiple accounts is just not a good idea. If one account is compromised then several more will be as well. Don't do it. It's just that simple. Keep your purse locked up.
However, if you don't think you can do that. At least, shove that purse behind the trash can. Use the same password for that forum you rarely visit and that gaming site, but use unique passwords for your bank and for Amazon. What better way to invite theft than to safeguard your financial information and your credit card information with the same password?
Along similar lines, LeTourneau asks that you create a unique password for your LeTourneau account. For your sake, and for the school's.

3) Share your password with no one. Two can keep a secret. If one of them is dead.
I know we all have people we love and trust. But don't share your passwords with them. It lessens the risk overall, and they don't have to worry about keeping it secret. And if you do have to share it for some very rare reason, please remember to change it afterwards. Again: little risk, little worry.
This is, of course, the strictest form of password security protocol that institutions like LeTourneau require. You and your spouse probably share your bank password, and that's okay. Just don't share it with your sister. Or best friend.
And if you want to share your Netflix password with your sister or best friend. That's up to you.
But the less people who know, the more secure your account is.

4) Store your passwords nowhere. The best place to store your passwords is in your brain. No doubt about it.
Unfortunately, many of us are forgetful people or have far too many accounts to keep track of. And it seems that sometimes it is virtually impossible to remember all of your accounts and passwords. So IF you absolutely cannot remember all of your passwords, THEN you may store it somewhere.
(Please note: that last statement is not a license to be lazy and not try to memorize them all.)
The best way to store your passwords is under lock and key. For real. Or electronically. Keep a written copy of your passwords in a personal safe or lock box. Or you can store them on your computer in a password-protected document. DON'T keep them in an unprotected word document or sticky note.
But at the very least you're going to have to memorize at least one password or code.

5) Change your passwords often. You should, of course, change your password if you suspect it has been compromised. However, it is also a good security measure to change your password regularly.
Your account is most secure if you change the password about every 6 months. These measures should be taken with your most sensitive accounts such as your bank account or LeTu account. Some of your other accounts such as your Amazon account are probably sufficiently protected by changing your password only once a year. And that forum that you never visit anymore? It's probably okay never being changed.
If you can't remember to change it. Write it on your calendar "change passwords" and then stick to your schedule. That's all it takes. Better safe than sorry.

And just because I'm a really nice person, I'll tell you how to change your password or retrieve it at LeTourneau.

The easiest way to change your Letu account password is:
1) Log in to your desktop.
2) Hit (and hold) Ctrl+Alt+Del
3) Select "Change a password"
4) Follow the prompts.

And if you forget your password:
- If you are a student:
      1) Visit
      2) Select the "Forget your Password?" tab at the top left
      3) Follow the prompts.
- If you are a faculty or staff:
      1) Call the IT helpdesk.

Oh, and by the way. You can't use "thequickbrownfoxjumpedoverthelazydog" for a password now.

Sincerely, The Fly

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