Think You’re Safe Online?

Were you as shocked as I was to learn last week that hackers stole 6.5 million LinkedIn users’ passwords and posted them online? These security breaches should scare you! They certainly scare me. According to Digital Trends, a surprising number of those LinkedIn subscribers used passwords like 1234 and 12345. Seriously?

In its January 20112 issue, Consumer Reports ran an article, “Hack-proof your passwords: Criminals are getting smarter. So should you.” Excerpts follow.

A national survey of 1,000 adults done in October by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, projected 34 million adults keep lists of passwords in places that may not be secure.

Some well known companies outsouce their data handling so we do not know how our online security is protected.

When Sony Pictures was hacked last year, passwords were not encrypted. They were in plain text which provided no barrier to hackers! Can you believe it? Those millions of users also were at risk of having other accounts with the same password hacked!

“The kind of hardware used to crack passwords has plunged in price. According to Robert Imhoff-Dousharm, information security officer at SanDisk, for $3,000 you can buy a PC with the password-cracking power of the fastest supercomputer in 1994, which cost $30 million then. A PC with that power can be made with parts from a computer retailer and can crack any 8-character password in just 23 hours.” A budget-friendly, starter version for $800 can do the same in 40 days. He adds, pretty soon nine characters won’t be enough because it’s pretty easy to find free software online that can crack passwords.

Every time we enter a password to access a Web site, we gamble that our identity will be protected. How safe are we? Probably not as much as we think. We must be proactive and take steps to protect ourselves.

Here are 11 important tips from Consumer Reports.

1.  Create strong passwords by using a combination of letters, symbols and upper- and lower-case letters of at least eight characters (nine or more is better)
2.  Don’t use the same password twice or hackers can access all your accounts with that password
3.  Use a pass phrase (several words mixed with numbers and symbols)
4.  Length matters more than complexity
5.  Look for https:// in the URL (Web address) for password-protected sites
6.  Keep computer, major applications and security software current
7.  If you must have a written list of passwords, keep it safe
8.  Experts store password lists on encrypted flash drives, use an online service like LastPass (www.lastpass.com) or encrypt them on their computers using KeePass (www.keepass.info)
9.  Do not give passwords to people you don’t know on the phone, in e-mail or on social media
10. Do not click on unfamiliar links–instead type the URL into your browser’s window
11. Do not use the commonly used password “Password”  Duh.

Of course, organizations that require passwords should protect their users with the best encryption and security measures possible. But even if every organization and every person do everything possible, there is no such thing as 100% security protection. Following these tips and any others you find, and using common sense, should give you peace of mind knowing you have done everything you can.

Thoughts of My Dad on Father’s Day

I lost my dad way back in 1993. I miss him. A lot. He played piano beautifully. I loved to listen. Even after seven years of piano lessons, I never could play as well as he did.  He loved gardening, classical music, animals, birds, the outdoors. I never really appreciated — and loved those same things — until it was too late to do them with him. I’d give anything to get his help with my garden, or take a walk in the park or go to the symphony with him. In addition to my driving instructor, he taught me to drive. He would be proud to know I have never been in a car accident with another vehicle when I was the driver.

My dad (and my mom, who I lost the following year) were very organized, long before I came along. Both my dad and mom would have been proudest to know they gave me my passion when I started An Organized Approach in 2000. They set the example of how to be organized in every aspect of my life, starting from the time I could walk and talk through my early 20s when I moved out to explore life on my own. Organizing (and, of course, home staging and redesign) is the most fulfilling and rewarding work I have ever done. Thanks, dad (and mom)!

A very happy Father’s Day to all dads who read Timely Tips. To those of you who have dads in their lives, treat them especially well on Sunday. Always appreciate what they mean to you.

Quote of the Month

You can’t have everything. Where would you put it? ~Steven Wright