Here are some tools and simple steps to reduce the chance that your personal information will be stolen via one of your passwords.
AVOID WIFI PASSWORD THEFT
Whether the router came with your service, or you purchase your own router, it should be protected from unwanted use.
Make sure that you:
1. Change the default password per the instructions that come with your router. Call the help line for your router if you find reading the manual equivalent to obtaining a PHD in WIFI.
2. Use WPA encryption. If you have no idea what this means, then I suggest you contact the help line for your router.
3. Take this free class http://networking-wireless.classes.cnet.com/protect-your-wi-fi-network-from-hackers/ to learn about protecting your WIFI network from hackers.
4. Still unsure? Read this computer world http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9037321 article on how to lock down your router.
Don't think it's important? Take a look http://www.google.com/search?q=list+of+default+passwords at how easy it is for a thief to find out your default password.
AVOID PASSWORD THEFT IN FIREFOX AND INTERNET EXPLORER
Did you know that if you do not set your master password in Firefox, others can see all the passwords you have had Firefox remember in plain text? Follow these instructions http://www.security-hacks.com/2007/05/11/firefox-how-to-set-master-password to setup your master password.
Internet Explorer does not have a master password functionality. Someone who has access to your computer can fairly easily http://www.passcape.com/internet_explorer_password_recovery.htm steal your passwords. I suggest you disable the password saving http://kb.iu.edu/data/ahvh.html functionality and remove previously saved passwords http://kb.iu.edu/data/alcx.html in Internet Explorer and use a password manager instead (see "Use a Password Manager and Generator" below).
USE A PASSWORD MANAGER AND GENERATOR
I personally use RoboForm http://www.roboform.com/php/land.php?affid=t3525 as a tool to manage and generate passwords. This website http://www.pctools.com/guides/password/ can generate powerful passwords for you; however, they will be difficult to remember. If you don't want to pay the license fee for RoboForm, I suggest you check out KeePass http://keepass.info/ .
If you prefer to not use any software at all, check out this solution http://lifehacker.com/software/top/geek-to-live--choose-and-remember-great-passwords-184773.php .
USE FINGERPRINT AUTHENTICATION
You could use your fingerprint as the master password into your computer. Newer laptops have fingerprint recognition hardware built in. You can get an idea on the cost of USB based scanners here http://www0.dealtime.com/xGS-fingerprint_scanner , then purchase one from a trusted vendor.
There are three drawbacks I have seen to using fingerprint recognition: 1) I have not found software to make it easy to carry your passwords from one computer to another, 2) if you need to remotely access a computer, you may be out of luck and 3) it's another device I need to carry.
ENCODE WRITTEN PASSWORDS
If you insist on writing your passwords down on paper, at least encode them http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encryption . For example, you may keep a portion of every password in your mind that it same for all passwords, but never write down that portion.
If the mentally stored password is 1234, when I create a password "pa1234ssword", I would write down "password2_. The number two at the end lets me know that the numbers in my head go after the second letter.
LOCK DOWN YOUR PC
Here < http://pcworld.about.com/magazine/2204p103id114727.htm > are 29 tips to help make sure that your computer is sufficiently protected.
LOCK DOWN YOUR MOBILE PHONE
It's easy to overlook this, but be sure to password protect your phone and/or pocket PC. You should be familiar with how to easily lock it after each use. Setup the auto-lock feature, which allows the phone to lock itself after a certain period of time.
It's important to remember that no system or password is foolproof; however, with these methods you add an extra layer of protection.
What methods and tools do you use to keep your passwords safe?
Please send all feedback, topic suggestions and/or questions to TechTalk@AboveTheLimit.com. Digital archives can be found at BlackVoiceNews.com and IngleWoodToday.com.
Elmer Thomas Jr. is Founder of Above the Limit, Inc., an award winning web and software development company dedicated to bridging the digital divide. You can find out more about Mr. Thomas at www.AboveTheLimit.com.
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