The evolution of computers is astounding. The increase in computing power, bandwidth and accessibility has made almost everything people do with computers easier. Information technology not only satisfies our need for instant gratification, but changes the rules for trivial pursuit. No doubt, computers have changed our lives, but we still login very much like in the old days.
Today’s computer looks much different from the main frame days. Back then most users had a “green” screen to input data, starting with username and password. There was little graphics and most user input was entered at a prompt. Now, the graphics are remarkable from backgrounds to programs to games. The modern computer and display makes the virtual world come alive in ways that were hard to imagine twenty years ago. But with all the advancements one key feature hasn’t changed, we still use a username and password to log in.
Most computer systems still require input of the username and password to authenticate. There are some computer systems that use biometrics, digital certificates or smart cards, but even those seemingly high-tech features are still anchored in providing old fashioned authentication in the form of username/password combinations. Two-factor authentication requires two separate ways – something you know (username/password) and something you have (biometrics/smart card/digital key) – to verify identity, but even these methods have weaknesses. Still your first defense is a strong password.
Strong passwords contain upper and lower case letters, numbers, special characters and are at least 8 characters in length. Here are a few examples:
shirt.3cloud (Random words with numbers and special character)
mhalLifwWas (Phrase with upper and lower characters – Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow)
Important accounts should have unique passwords. Even if you reuse passwords, don’t use on too many critical accounts and make sure the password is strong. If a password is compromised, change all accounts that use that password. You can create a less stringent password to use on non-critical accounts.
If you cannot remember all your accounts and passwords, you will have to record them. You can keep in a secure password book or encrypted file, but this is where your best security can be compromised. Keep your book behind lock and key. Be sure to encrypt your password file and call is something innocent. (Don’t call it password.file.) There are programs that will organize and save your accounts and passwords. To avoid malware infections, only get these programs from reliable sources. A good rule to follow is “when in doubt – don’t.”
A few password tools:
“Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don’t let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months.” Cliff Stoll