Help Your Family Develop Good Password Skills

Passwords are virtual keys to our personal life online; the secretive it is, the safer are our online accounts. In simple terms, you can say that an online password is comparable to the combination code for our bank account- which means, a weak one like 1234ABCD or even DCBA4321 is so much easier to crack by any layman, let alone cyber criminals. Cyber security experts therefore can’t stress enough on the need for creating a STRONG password. And it goes without saying that passwords are the keys to digital identities, they HAVE to be KEPT SAFE and PRIVATE. Also, it is always advisable from a security point that DIFFERENT PASSWORDS are used for different accounts. Otherwise, if someone cracks your password, they can access all your online accounts, data and personal information!

As an additional security measure, many sites today have advised users to change passwords regularly. Now we all agree that to create unique passwords every couple of months and then to keep a record of it every single time can get really challenging, don’t we? But do consider this- if you use a simple password (instead of a hard to guess phrase), for e.g. your name and date of birth, then you stand a strong chance of becoming a victim of a password hacker. Therefore, I for one, always opt for different passwords for my different accounts online and also update them regularly.So what can you do too?

Solution A–     Use a reputed security software that offers a PASSWORD MANAGER facility

Solution B–     Devise an easy to remember strategy to create strong passwords. You may write them down in a diary, but remember to keep it safe & private. Never keep records of passwords on your mobile or save in a word document which can be accessed by anyone. You could save the password as a hint to help recall in times of doubt. For example: If your password is Football11, you could jot down a hint that will help you recall it, say, favourite team sport (football being the favourite sport and 11 being the number of players in the team).

So, what should you be keeping in mind while creating a password?

  • It should be strong
  • It should be unique
  • It should be a combination of case, alphabets, special characters and numbers
  • It should be easy for you to remember

Tip: Try passphrases that have been contracted to a word and consist of alphabets, numbers and special characters.

Example 1: Use favourite books/movies/TV shows to form passwords.

Start with, say, your favourite movie: “Batman Forever” (This is something every comic fan will like)

Form a password by omitting all vowels: btmnfrvr

Next, add a special character and a number to show that it’s your top choice: btmnfrvr#1

Now you have a 10 character password that makes sense only to you. You can change the number to 2 and then 3, or the first and last letters to capital and voila! You have a new password. Like this – BtmnfrvR#1. Got it?

You can make the password a little tougher to crack without making much alteration, like this– BtmnFrvr(1).

Example 2: This one is for doting grandparents. You know you can’t use your own name and birthdate to form passwords, but you can use your grandchildren’s names/nicknames. Also, you can add some numbers and characters to signify special events. Like this:

Say you have two grandchildren. Use their names and unique characteristics to create a password. Say their names are Laila and Suman. Start with LailaSuman

Suppose Laila started talking at 1 and Suman at 2. (Grandparents do remember these things, and it’s pretty amazing too!). Add in these numbers: Laila1Suman2

For the next change, you can add special characters like Laila@1Suman@2 and you have a strong 14 character password.

That was easy, wasn’t it? With practice, you can become really skilled at creating really good passwords.

Example 3: A third strategy is to use a formula based on “name-place(space)-year”.

Suppose you met/married Niharika in Mumbai in 1974. So a password from spouse nickname@wedding venue/(spacebar)/year would be something like NiharMum 1974. Now you can make it a wee bit complex by replacing 1974 with the special characters on the same keys. All you have to do is to hold the SHIFT key while you press 1-9-7-4.

1-!

9- (

7- &

4- $                                                                                                                                       

Now the password is -> Nihar@Mum !(&$

You can also create a very easy to remember passphrase sequence using part of your name and some other info.

Suppose your name is Mahesh. You have been living in Delhi since 2001. Your password can be MahDel0115 (Mahesh/Delhi/2001-2015)

Next year just change the dates and you get MahDel0116.

These are but some examples. I am sure you have many bright ideas and some really good password tricks up your sleeves. Please share with us your password ideas by leaving comments below.

Things to remember:

  • Passwords should be kept secret & shared only with very trusted people like parents or spouse (until and unless necessary). If shared, do remember to change it soon.
  • To never access public Wi-Fi to log in to your social media accounts as it’s easier to steal passwords if you are using unsecured Wi-Fi
  • Never use a single password for your e-mail, social media accounts and online banking accounts.

Have fun creating new passwords and remember, safety is both a right and a responsibility.

Stay safe online folks!!

This Friendship’s Day, Unfriend Strangers from Your Social Media Accounts

Ask a teen what’s the best thing about life and 9/10 times the answer would be ‘friends’. To teens, friends are EVERYTHING! They may as well quote Virginia Woolf and say: “Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.”

Friendship in the internet age has stretched beyond the borders of real life. For many, having over 500 friends in social media circles isn’t a big deal at all. But, how many of them are your genuine friends? Obviously, most of the friends will either be strangers or friend of a friend of a friend; and in most cases, their identity can’t be easily authenticated. But they add to the score and therefore end up knowing your personal life as and when you share online.

Curiosity, need for peer approval, competitive spirits & loneliness may often be reasons driving kids to search for friends online. Here is another example: A tongue-tied teen can confidently text online and likewise a timid child with a low sense of self-esteem – can feel elated to have several friends online.

But are the ‘online friends’ trustworthy?

According to the findings of the McAfee Tweens, Teens & Technology Report 2014, tweens and teens find that it is easier to communicate via the internet than in person. 66% of the respondents said they feel more accepted on social media, while72% feel more important when they receive a lot of likes.

The research also said that 71% of Indian youth interacted online with people they didn’t know in real life. What they tend to forget is an important factor – the people they befriend online may mask their identity in an attempt to steal your personal information. There is no way of knowing their motive until it’s too late.

The result is that online friendship may sometimes prove to be harmful.

The online trouble doesn’t stop with just tweens and teens as even adults have been victims of troll attacks, cyberbullying, scams, cyberstalking and phishing. Just imagine the effects on impressionable and young adults if they have to deal with such negative relationships!

So this Friendship Day, make it a point to interact with people whom you already know in the real world. Should you want to make new friends, you could do a background check on a person’s online profile before accepting their friend request. Always decide beforehand about how much of your personal life details, you want to share online and change your social media accounts’ privacy settings accordingly. Remember that in this connected age, you are leaving behind your digital footprints, records of which will forever stay available online. It is time you started micromanaging your online activities.

A few quick tips for our young adults:

  • Take time to run a check on your friends list at regular intervals. Unfriend those who you don’t know personally, even if he/she happens to be your best friend’s sister’s bestie
  • Do not accept friend requests randomly
  • Desist from Skyping or using the webcam during chats
  • Decide who can view your pics/videos. Remember, they can be downloaded and shared
  • Want to keep strangers away? Don’t use your own photo as profile pic and keep your location and contact details secret
  • Unfriend those who have either been mean to you or bullied you online
  • Remember to flag any untoward incident with your elders and keep them updated on anything that causes discomfort to you online

Parents as usual play a very important role in ensuring that their children interact online with only people they know well in person. They need to stress on the values and meaning of friendship and how it can be an enriching experience.

Some tips for parents:

  • Parents need to tactfully follow quid pro quo policy when kids sign up on social media. They should allow access to kids for social media only if they (parents) are given access to their passwords or are befriended on every social media platform the kids access
  • Keep a check on online interactions to make sure your child is enjoying a healthy relation with friends. Question your child frankly on new friends, objectionable posts and uploads by self/friends
  • Set strict rules about not chatting with strangers or meeting them offline
  • Have periodic discussions on stranger-danger and unethical practices. Ask them about their views, problems that their peers may have faced

Friendship is a beautiful bond – nurture and treasure it with your special ones. One bitter experience is enough to make one lose faith in it, so choose your friends wisely.

Stay happy, stay safe! And, Happy Friendship Day!

A Parent’s Handy Primer on Cyber Vocabulary

An Aware Child is safer Online

Part IV

Aaaaaand, we are back! *drum rolls*

This week’s topic is not only the continuation of our primer; but also, the last of it!

Let us quickly brush up on the topic of discussion – our dated cyber vocabulary. Many of us might not be aware of the terminologies in the cyber sphere, despite of being familiar with the internet. So, for the benefit of the larger audience, I have classified the terms into four parts in my blogs. This week being the last of it, let us get going with our primer…

Do take a look at the list and comment below for any queries, feedback or suggestions that you may have.

  1. Adware:

Software that automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertisements to a computer. This ranges from banners to annoying pop-ups. These ads usually latch onto free software and get downloaded without the user’s awareness or permission.

Cyber Safety Tip:

  • Don’t allow adware to run in the background as it tends to collect information about your internet surfing habits, preferences, computer systems, etc.
  • Remove any (adware), which is already in the device using an updated anti-malware solution. Keep in mind that a freely downloadable antivirus might itself be a carrier of adware
  1. Pop-ups:

A new window that suddenly appears on your computer screen is referred to as a pop-up window

Cyber Safety Tip:

  • Disable pop-ups – that way you will not be worried about your child inadvertently being directed to a spurious site or accidentally downloading malware after clicking on the link in the pop-up
  1. P2P networking:

This refers to a peer-to-peer system of file sharing in which any computer on the network can see any other computer on the network. This process usually involves illegal sharing and the risk of virus infection for devices

Cyber Safety Tip:

  • Only use legal file-sharing services and be alert when installing one as some of these torrent files can contain .exe files embedded within games or pirated software
  • Talk, teach and guide your children to use the right media to avoid risks of being infected with programs designed to remove or circumvent copy protection as they are particularly dangerous

And, that marks the end to our basic primer!

Hope you received a good amount of knowledge on important terms which all of us need to be aware of, to guide our families and even friends. Remember to share this blog with your friends and family as it gives them the chance to get insights on how to be protected online.

As always, Stay safe, stay happy!