Online passwords

Despite the media attention given to the security issues of passwords, people still seem to be uneducated about staying safe online. This is particularly true for choosing and keeping passwords. When online users pick a password, they don’t think of the risks if their account is accessed by others. In general, people feel safe if a website accepts their new password. This is not always the case. The individual user should know whether or not his password his strong instead of relying on the acceptance of his password by a website. The password should be carefully chosen such that it is difficult to guess for anyone.

To counter any unauthorized access to website accounts, website developers or administrators have began making password guessing difficult. For example, they require that new passwords be of certain length, contain specific type of characters, and choosing of some security questions in case the password needs to be reset. Although these are encouraging steps to protect online user’s data, the user should also be aware of protecting himself or herself. Here we present some ideas to make online accounts more secure.

As any interest user would know usernames and passwords are the keys to opening doors of opportunities the internet provides. To the computers, it does not matter who uses these keys. The key could be used by a legitimate user, a hacker, or a computer trying to guess passwords. When an unauthorized access is successful to a user’s account any numbers of things are possible:

  • shopping on behalf of the user
  • making changes to the user’s account (for example, changing passwords, changing billing information, changing content – posting embarrassing information/graphical or textual)
  • stealing of identity or information (credit card information, for instance)
  • reading of personal messages (email) or other account information. Also, sending of emails in the user’s name

To protect against these risks everyone online should be aware of how to protect themselves on internet. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • follow the rules of your website administrator for making and keeping your passwords safe
  • don’t share your passwords with others.
  • don’t choose a password that is a popular word, name, or date of birth. In other words, avoid passwords that are easy to guess. Easy to guess passwords makes it easy to exploit an account.
  • avoid writing your passwords near your computer desk. Instead memorize it because this is safest place to keep a password.
  • don’t use free programs downloaded from websites or your email unless you are sure the program is safe for use. If a harmful program is installed, your passwords, email ids, and other files may be stolen. This may all happen without your knowledge.
  • if you discover your password is stolen, contact the website’s customer service desk immediately. But how do you tell if your password is stolen? Here are some clues to help you figure out:
    • your account information is changed
    • if the website offers it, check for the last log-on date and time. If the logon time is when you were not online, you know it was not you!
    • when you login, you get a message that you are already logged-in.
    • your website customer service notifies you of a breach of its account information. this sort of message may not mention your account is specifically breached but that a particular breach took place on the website.
    • your website customer service notifies you of excessive login failures. This suggests that someone is trying to hack into your account. Consequently, your account may be lacked.

Important note

Avoid using the same password (regardless of how difficult or easy it is to guess for others) on all of the websites you use. Obviously, if someone figures out a password for one website you use, it will be difficult for him to figure out the password for the other websites that you may be using if you use a unique password for each website. On the other hand, if you use the same password for all of the websites you use, someone only needs to figure out the other websites you could potentially be using.

When it comes to choosing a username and password, make sure your choose login credentials are strong and difficult to guess. This is the best defense against identity theft and misuse of your online account. So what makes a password strong and difficult to guess? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • mix capital and lower case letters along with digits and special characters such as !, @, #, $,, %, ^, &, *, (, ), -, and +.
  • choose phrase that is not based on personal information that can be easily guessed. A password based on a word (or words) in dictionary, birthday, family or pet name, address, or other commonly known or guess is what makes online accounts vulnerable to outside use. Chose a phrase, for instance, constructed from a sentence. Let's say our sentence is "I graduated from high school in 2000 with all A's." To construct the password, you could use the first letter of each word in this sentence to construct: Igfhsi2waa. Avoid using the same passwords on different websites.
Posted on 5/21/2008
by Raj Singh