Cate Eales - Real Life Internet Solutions
Cate Eales - Real Life Internet Solutions

Real Life Internet Solutions

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Submitted by Cate Eales - Passwords

In earlier columns we discussed several easy-to-use utilities to safeguard your computer from outsiders. (If you missed those columns, you will find them archived at www.rlis.com/.) That’s a good start toward a good online experience. Another important consideration is password management.

Password Management
We are all, by now, familiar with banking PIN numbers and requests for our mother’s maiden name. As we use our computers for more things --- and more important things --- we are confronted with more demands for passwords. We are told to use different passwords for different things, and to use strong passwords for everything. A strong password is difficult to detect by both humans and computer programs, and consists of at least six characters (and the more characters, the stronger the password) that are a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Passwords are typically case-sensitive, so a strong password contains letters in both uppercase and lowercase. Strong passwords also do not contain words that can be found in a dictionary or parts of the user’s own name. Or their pet’s name.

Well that’s a pain, isn’t it? Now we need some kind of gibberish for each and every program and website that asks for a password, and it has to be difficult to remember, AND we can’t write it down! I suspect that many of us use either a simple password over and over, or the use a complicated one and then write it down somewhere easy to find – like a post-it note stuck to the monitor. I often find a file called “pw.txt” on my clients’ computers. No prize for guessing what it contains.

I once had a job where I had access to something like 30 systems, each with its own login and password. This became so overwhelming that I made a spreadsheet to manage them, password protected the spreadsheet, and --- you guessed it --- forgot the password.

Now I use a simple, free password organizer called Oubliette, available from Tanglos Software. The major advantage is that I can choose different passwords for different sites without having to remember them. The Oubliette files are encrypted, so no one can read them unless they have the master password.

I use the new FireFox web browser which asks if I want it to remember my passwords for web sites. If I say yes, each time I visit that page the browser logs me in. This is convenient for low risk sites like Major League Baseball’s online radio broadcasts. It would be quite easy for someone with access to my computer to retrieve these saved passwords (or visit those sites posing as me) so when I browse to my credit card company or bank, I tell the browser to never remember the password. That’s where Oubliette comes in. For these sites, I use a strong password. AND I change it frequently, updating the entry in Oubliette when I make the change.

Some speculate that even this will be unnecessary one day as biometrics become cheaper for computer manufacturers to install and easier for users to manage. It won’t even be necessary for us to remember our own names as long as we have fingerprints!

Cate Eales has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible and fun for over 20 years. She lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric, and her dog, Sandy. Email Cate with your comments, suggestions, or questions. To browse the column archives, visit the Real Life Internet Solutions

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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