Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to pick a password that's hard to hack


We've all experienced the tedium and frustrations of constantly having to deal with all of the various usernames and passwords that we have to contend with on a daily basis. Passwords and usernames for our smartphones, email accounts, bank accounts, and a seemingly endless list of online vendors that all require us to commit our personal access to memory. In my line of work, not only do I have to be vigilant on my own usernames and passwords, more importantly I have to be extra careful on how I handle the many usernames and passwords of my clients as well.

As online stores and services continue to eclipse traditional brick and mortar facilities and with smartphones having built in POS applications (point of sale) our wallets are slowly taking a back pocket to our cell phones, a transition that makes consumers more vulnerable to being hacked and puts more of an emphasis on security than ever before. We all have our own routine and protocol when it comes to not only choosing usernames and passwords, but how we remember them as well. I personally have done everything from storing sensitive information on password protected USB flash drives to password protected digital folders and APPS on my computers and smartphone.

Here are some great tips on how to password protect your day to day life:

By Shan Li of The Los Angeles Times.

How to pick a password that's hard to hack

The latest LulzSec attacks revealed that most victims used email passwords that were easy to decipher. A good password doesn't have to be impossible to remember. Here are tips for protecting your accounts.

If there's one lesson to be learned from the rash of hack attacks recently, it's the value of a strong password.

Just look at what the hacker group LulzSec dug up. After hacking into the websites of the CIA, PBS and Sony, it posted on the Internet the email addresses and passwords of 62,000 compromised accounts.

A quick scan of the list showed that most passwords were easy to remember — and easy to crack. Sample: "wildwoman," "coffeecup," "peterp," and "kindle."

Of course, the ideal password would be long, unintelligible and nearly impossible to predict. Like this: !co4D4)f%d. But good passwords are hard to remember, which is why so many people end up with easy ones or reuse the same password for multiple accounts.

Nowadays, passwords are the keys to your digital life, and they safeguard everything from your email accounts to your bank accounts against cyber criminals. Here are a few ways to protect yourself online:

• Use mnemonics. Pick a personal sentence, as I did for my college account: "I am an NYU student!" and take the first letter of every word to create a password "1iaanyus!" (NYU requires its students to add a number for extra security. And no, that password doesn't work anymore.)

• Know that longer is usually better, but not always. A six-character password such as 7cG&!s is more secure than a longer password that uses a word or a phrase, such as iloveyou.

• Change passwords to your bank accounts every few months.

• Write down the passwords on a list without user names. Keep it with your passport, car title, Social Security card or other papers you are not likely to lose.

• If you truly cannot remember passwords and tend to lose scraps of paper, use password-managing software such as LastPass or KeePass that encrypts and stores all your passwords. Some will automatically plug in your password at the appropriate sites. They're usually free or charge a nominal monthly fee for extra features.

• If you want the ultimate protection — and have the memory of an elephant — consider using a "random password generator" that you can find by doing an Internet search. It'll spit out passwords depending on how complicated you want them to be.

And a few things to avoid:

• Never use simple words or phrases, even if you spell them backward and add a number. Hackers have software that can predict commonly used words.

• Never have the same password for every account, especially for bank accounts and sites such as Amazon.com that can store your credit card information.

• Never email passwords to yourself. If hackers gain access to your email, they would then have the whole kit and caboodle.

• Avoid using personal details. Do not include your name, birthday or home address, which can be easily guessed by someone who knows you.

• Don't share your passwords with friends or family.

• Don't log into sensitive accounts when using public Wi-Fi.

And finally, it's important to remember that no password is completely immune from being cracked, said Robert Rachwald, the director of security strategy at Redwood Shores, Calif., digital security firm Imperva. The best way to keep your personal information safe is to avoid providing it if at all possible.

shan.li@latimes.com

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The new look, of the newly rich: Living well below your means, even when you don’t have to?

(Joe Greenstein, who recently sold his company Flixster for about $80 million, still lives in the San Francisco studio apartment he has rented for the last 10 years. (Dave Getzschman, For The Times / June 18, 2011)

With Wall Street all abuzz with the recent IPO’s of various technology and social media companies like Linkedin and Pandora, garnering initial public offerings and valuations of 30 to 50 times annual earnings. Stories of overnight multi, multi, multi millionaires are garnering as much, if not more attention than the companies themselves. What makes this particular technology surge different from the Gold Rush of the last tech boom is what this crop of CEO’s and Titans of Industry are NOT buying rather than what they are buying.

A lot of today’s nouveau riche are choosing to forgo the mansions, yachts and collection of exotic cars in exchange for social awareness, non-profit endeavors and philanthropy. Aaron Patzer who just turned 30, lives in a 600 square-foot apartment, who up until recently drove a 1996 Ford Contour until it finally broke down at 150,000 miles which he then replaced with a Subaru Outback. Patzer lives a modest lifestyle by any standard, but when you take into account that his net worth is estimated at over $150 million from selling his internet start-up company Mint.com to Intuit (the company responsible for such financial software such as Quicken and QuickBooks) you would think he was crazy. “Wealth needs a purpose greater than big houses and flashy cars.” Says Patzer, who prefers to spend his money on causes that he feels will make a difference in society and impact people’s lives rather than accumulating expensive toys.

Then there’s Joe Greenstein, who just last month sold his San Francisco based company Flixster to Time Warner Inc. for $80 million dollars. Greenstein still lives in the same $1000 a month apartment he has been renting for the last 10 years. The 33 year old says he feels fortunate to not be living paycheck to paycheck anymore and finds plenty of satisfaction in being able to pay for his younger brother’s college tuition.

Our fascination with stories of hitting it big and what we would do with new found wealth are about as common as society’s obsession with celebrity and realty television shows. Just think about anytime the Lottery Jackpot starts to reach the 8 and 9 figure mark and the water cooler talk that accompanies it. We often find ourselves daydreaming about what we would tell our bosses before abruptly quitting our job. We think about the houses and cars we would buy and all the exotic places we would visit. The biggest difference between some of these humbled entrepreneurs that we hear about vs. the, what I like to call “paycheck to paycheck ballers”. Those who make a lot of money but seldom have any savings put away and cannot wait until the 1st and 15th of every month, is passion.

Most of us can only hope to be lucky enough to one day find out how we would act or what we would do with such a windfall. I’d like to think that I would find solace in being able to take care of my family and having financial security. Those who know me best know that I live a pretty simple lifestyle, but they also know that, by no means do I live like a monk. I have an affinity for virtually anything sold at the Apple Store and I probably have one or two more watches than I need.

A lot of entrepreneurs who strike it rich enjoy the process of their endeavor and not just the end result. Often, their objective is to make a positive impact rather than just getting rich. The overall mindset seems to be different when your passion just so happens to make you wealthy rather than wealth being your ultimate passion.
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