Are You as Safe Online as You Think You Are?

As an E-Specialist with the library, I assist customers during our open lab program where they can receive help with downloading electronic media, figuring out a new device, and yes helping with lost passwords.passwordprotection

During one of these lab sessions a customer came in with their laptop. After signing in they stated that they had been hacked and that their email account password had been changed. Here is where the adventure begins.

A link for retrieving a password is usually provided and simply clicking that link will start you on the road of resetting your password. But if (like this customer) you don’t have the mobile phone you used to set the account up with to receive a security code, then you have to remember the answer to your security question (was it my favorite aunt CHARLOTTE or Charlotte or was it aunt Joan) . If you guess wrong too many times you’re locked out of the account.

Luckily for this customer when they were typing in their password, the issue was the caps lock key was engaged and the issue was resolved.

But this brought up the question “How can I manage my passwords? I have trouble remembering all this stuff.” There are a few options.

First, there is a low tech way – write them down. Now this could be dangerous. If you included the username, web address and password on the same paper you increase the chances of the accounts being compromised if you should lose that paper. Treating it like a passport and keeping it secured and used only when needed may keep it safe. This article by Hayley Tsukayama of The Washington Post’s The Switch has some good suggestions.

Your second option is to use products called password managers. This article by Brandon Widder and Justin Pot for does a good job of explaining some of the options that are available to you. Some products can be used with a USB drive so no sensitive data is on the computer or stored online. (Never have a browser store password information as they are a prime target for hacking).

Included with some password managers is a password generator feature that creates strong passwords to help protect your account. A strong password has a minimum of 8 characters made up of:

  • 2 lowercase
  • 2 Numbers
  • 2 special characters !@#$%^&*()?><

identitytheftPasswords also need to be changed with regularity. You never know who is gathering your information. A professor for Internet security once said,” Only way to be secure online is to put the computer back in the box it came in.”

Your third option is to put the passwords on a memo sheet you keep on your smartphone or tablet. Then you have to insure that your device is passcode protected and NEVER lose it.

As you can see this electronic world has many options with advantage and disadvantages, but before you get flustered about passwords, look at your key ring.  How many keys do you have?

If you would like to schedule an individual tech tutoring session with an e-specialist, you can do so by visiting

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