Saturday, January 19, 2008

Are Your Passwords as Secure as You Think?

Are Your Passwords as Secure as You Think? Youandrsquo;ve chosen what you think is a strong password; no-one would guess what it is in a month of Sundays andndash; or would they? In this age of computers and high-tech hackers, is your password as secure as youandrsquo;d like to think? Signing up to any online resources such as chat rooms, discussion forums or article and auction sites will almost always require you to supply a certain amount of personal information and inevitably choose a password. Hopefully, youandrsquo;ll pick a password that should ensure all your details remain safe and secure. If youandrsquo;re inventive with your choice of password, then you may be relatively safe, but using the same one you use for all other websites you login to or not giving your choice sufficient thought could mean that your personal details donandrsquo;t remain private for very long. Keyloggers One of the ways unscrupulous hackers are making huge sums of money is by stealing supposedly protected information from other usersandrsquo; computers with the aid of a programme called a andlsquo;keyloggerandrsquo;. Quite simply, a keylogger lets someone see what another user has been looking at on the Internet; in other words, it allows one person to spy on anotherandrsquo;s computer. Keylogger programmes can be downloaded for free from a number of websites and are not illegal to own or use providing of course that they are not used for criminal purposes. Inevitably though, there are always some that will find a way of profiting by dishonest means and anyone with an Internet connection could become a target. A keylogger records every keystroke made by a user and sends the data back to the hacker. From the information received, the hacker can obtain personal information and passwords that could possibly allow them to access a personandrsquo;s bank or savings account and clean them out; obviously a very lucrative and relatively risk-free operation. It must be mentioned however, that there is also a legitimate use for this type of programme in that it can be used as a means of protection and censorship by parents who want to monitor and control what websites their children are visiting whilst they are online. Access Tricks Keyloggers are not the only tools used in an attempt to get at your details. Many hackers will go to the trouble of using all the words in a dictionary as a means of obtaining a password and on some occasions this strategy actually works; typing in the names of celebrities and sports stars is another favoured method that can also be extremely effective. An well chosen password should ideally contain both upper and lower case letters plus numbers and other characters; the downside of such a mix is that it will be very hard to remember, and practically impossible if you have lots of them. So, how do you go about keeping your information really safe? Security One of the easiest ways password security can be increased is to use a separate password for each site and not rely on a andlsquo;one password fits allandrsquo; situation andndash; that just makes a hackerandrsquo;s job easier. Invest in a good anti-spyware programme, one that will detect any information being sent back to a hacker via your own Internet connection. Another option is to try out the various devices available that store all passwords in one place and plug into a USB port when you need to retrieve login details; inevitably, this device also needs a master password to access it but the upside is that you would no longer have to remember any of your other login names or passwords because the USB device automatically fills in the necessary boxes for you. In fact you wonandrsquo;t even have to use the keyboard to access your favourite sites, but you must remember - never leave the USB device lying around. The future It may be that the password as we know it is on borrowed time. Itandrsquo;s possible that at some point in the future the use of passwords will cease altogether to be replaced by an electronic access option that generates an ever-changing code as part of the login process. This technology is already being tried by various organisations, and though the effectiveness of the system for the moment remains unknown, it seems that a constantly changing password may be just whatandrsquo;s needed to keep your details safe and the hackers out. This article is the property of the author and may only be reproduced in its original form. John Sheridan is a professional proofreader of hard copy items and website copy. He also writes web copy and occasionally accepts small copy-editing assignments. He can be contacted via:

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