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Passwords Becoming Passé

I’m as tired as anyone else when it comes to remembering dozens of arcane passwords for all the websites I need to access. Current and future technology will be able to provide relief and stronger protection. Here’s the lowdown on locking down.

If we’ve learned anything at all from the monthly ransomware reports, electronic “locks” are pickable. We’ve also learned that time is money for hackers when it comes to planting ransomware and other viruses that can make life painful or costly or both.

Operating under the assumption that any electronic barrier can be hurdled in time, you want to lengthen the time of your defense as much as possible – and we’re talking decades. The longer and more complicated the password, the longer it will take for hacking software to crack your code. We all know that when you include uppercase and lowercase letters in combination with numbers and special characters, the time stretches out. Making sure it follows no special pattern – that it’s totally random – adds to the security.

Many theories abound as to how to create a complex, random password that’s easy to remember. One suggestion is to take a phrase or sentence that you can easily remember. Then, take the first or second letter in your phrase and turn some into uppercase letters, numbers or special characters in a random order.

I have one password I use for everything, and I am extremely confident its length and complexity will deter hackers. You may find fault that I have only one password, and that would be a valid criticism. If it’s cracked, someone could get into every internet account I have.

You can eliminate the need to remember multiple passwords by using a password manager program. Some are free and some have a nominal cost. Basically, you just need to remember a master password to get into the system. The password manager randomly generates new complex passwords when you visit each site. Yes, you can argue that somebody could crack the password manager’s system. It’s possible, but would you feel more comfortable with $1 million under your mattress or in a vault that’s a half-mile underground, encased in 20 feet of concrete and guarded by a randomly rotated army that’s always being retrained?

You can augment the password manager with two-factor authentication, something we’ve liked and used for years. In many cases, you need to answer a question, and it should be something only you know. Other measures might include answers to randomly generated multiple choice questions based on publicly available information that can be verified as “right” or “wrong.” No “maybes” allowed.

In the future, passwords will give way to biometrics. The software is there; the hardware needs to catch up. Windows 10’s Hello can handle the biometrics, but most computers don’t have the 3-D cameras needed to use the feature. Some Microsoft Surface tablets have the cameras, and if you are in the right place, it works really well.

Regardless of what technology you use, don’t let your guard down. Don’t buy things or do your banking over a public Wi-Fi network. Use a trusted, secure network or a cellular data network. Make sure the networks you control are secure with up-to-date firewalls and anti-virus and anti-malware software. Make sure all operating systems and firmware are current with all bug fixes and security patches.

Remember that we can help you with all of your internet password and security needs, including choosing and setting up a password manager, setting up two-factor authentication and answering your questions about biometrics systems. Call us – 973-433-6676 – email us to set up an appointment.