A password manager program going “passwordless?” Yup. Passwords are the bane of everyone’s existence, and the internet industry is looking to get rid of them.Continue reading
Old Security Habits Never Die; They Should
We still seem to see the same bad security habits we’ve always seen. Now, they involve PINs as well as passwords. Here are some bad habits you need to break.
The first bad habit has to do with keeping track of passwords and PINs (Personal Identification Numbers). We’ve discussed passwords ad nauseam, and the problems we find with them are they’re either forgotten, left in places where anyone can see them, used repeatedly, or made so simple that they’re easy to crack.
If you habitually run across any of these problems, you need to seriously think about how you can make your password system stronger. Some of the suggestions we’ve offered include making your passwords long and using a system that lets you vary one or two keystrokes or a word or phrase to keep them different. The system helps you remember your passwords – or at least the ones you use the most or ones you need while away from your computer. In creating your passwords, you’re better off using a longer password instead of a shorter complex one. Longer passwords make it more difficult for hacking software to figure it out.
A related issue is those security questions. Don’t give real answers that involve information in public records. Somebody can easily see where you’ve lived, where you went to school, etc. They can probably find out what your first car was.
PINs are meant to solve most of the issues, but they can run into that “forgetful” problem, too. An additional problem with PINs is that when you change devices, you need to reset the PIN. Again, that can be a real problem if you don’t remember the PIN you used.
Some people use their browser or a feature on their phones to save passwords. The danger there is that those passwords can be easily stolen, especially if you happen to visit a “phishing website,” one that has the look and feel of a legitimate website. When we feel rushed or stressed about things going on in life, we’re more susceptible to clicking one of those links or making a typing mistake. The owners of “phishing websites” typically have website domains related to common typing mistakes – although some companies have those sites, too, to make sure you can reach them. The old habit to break here is to take a deep breath when you’re online to make sure click on a legitimate link or type a domain name correctly.
Rather than use a browser or phone password saver, we recommend you a password manager. Dashlane and Last Pass are two that are well known, but using any manager gives you stronger protection. You’ll need to set aside time to get your password manager properly configured and to enter all the passwords you want to protect. The process includes setting up a master password that gives you access to the electronic vault where all your passwords are stored. The key to success is never, ever forgetting that password or giving it to anyone except one or two trusted people.
Credit card numbers can be hacked, too. A couple of our clients had their numbers stolen, and although they changed passwords, they still wondered what else might be broken in their system.
We can help you with security breaches. We take the time to look closely at your system to see how each change you might make – changing passwords or adding a password manager – will affect you. Our analogy here is to the new kitchen that we’re getting. As we change the room and add things like electrical outlets or lighting fixtures, we have to open holes in our walls and ceiling, and we don’t know what’s there until we get them open. It’s the same with your tech system. Without looking at everything, we can’t tell how one change will affect your system.
Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs and do the appropriate patching, including installing and configuring a password manager.
Did We Learn Anything from Colonial Pipeline?
Today, the gasoline shortages caused by the ransomware hack of Colonial Pipeline are in our rearview mirror. Hopefully, the memories are not forgotten. There are things we can all do to make it harder to access and hold our data for ransom . . .Continue reading
Tax Season: The Next Scam Season
I don’t know whether more money changes hands during the holiday shopping season or during tax season, but a lot is at stake between now and April 17 as people prepare tax returns. It’s a busy time of year for scammers, most of whom want to use fraudulent information to get your tax return money.
Probably one of the most common scams is someone calling from the IRS to say you owe back taxes. This happens every year and all year long, too. But there’s just one thing we want to remind you about, even if you know it: The IRS does not contact you by phone. Nor does the IRS contact you by email, a form of communications a scammer will use in a phishing expedition. The IRS sends you a letter.
The other scams you are likely to encounter are calls or emails from people or companies offering to prepare your tax returns and even provide you with an advance on your refund. The email scams are more insidious because if you click on a link, it could automatically trigger a breach of your computer that reveals sensitive information. If you follow through on a phone call or link, the scammer is going to request your Social Security number and other info that goes on a tax return. If the scammer is offering to advance you money from an expected refund, they’ll want your banking info, too. Once a scammer has this and other personal information, it’s easy to get credit cards and loans and commit crimes in your name.
From a computing point of view, we again remind you not to open emails from people you don’t know who offer help during the tax season. Delete them immediately. Do the same with an email from someone you know that seems out of context because it’s so easy to spoof an email address. For example, would you really expect Norman Rosenthal or Sterling Rose to prepare your taxes?
You can protect business and home networks and computers by making sure you have new, strong passwords for all networks and accounts. Strong passwords are long and contain a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numerals and special characters. With the breach at Equifax, the risk of fraud is higher, and one of the problems it can lead to is that someone will file your tax return before you do.
With protection in place, you can use the internet for all of your tax-related activity, starting with IRS’s official website https://www.irs.gov/. In addition to being able to get tax forms and answers to questions, you’ll find links to help you find and verify information about tax preparers, including 10 tips for choosing one.
If you are preparing your own taxes, we recommend you use one of the established software providers to reduce your risk of a security breach, especially when you file online.
While we don’t prepare taxes, we can help you keep your networks and computers secure. Call us – 973-433-6676 – if you think your system may have been compromised. Call us or email us if you have any questions about system security or security settings for any software you use for tax preparation and filing.