Thursday, May 22, 2008

Choosing Your Passwords Carefully


Choosing and Protecting Your

Passwords are a common form of authentication and are often the only barrier between a user and your personal information. There are several programs attackers can use to help guess or "crack" passwords, but by choosing good passwords and keeping them confidential, you can make it more difficult for an unauthorized person to access your information.

Think about the number of PIN numbers, passwords, or passphrases you use every day: getting money from the ATM or using your debit card in a store, logging on to your computer or email, signing in to an online bank account or shopping cart...the list seems to just keep getting longer.  Keeping track of all of the number, letter, and word combinations may be frustrating at times, and maybe you've wondered if all of the fuss is worth it.  While having someone gain access to your personal email might not seem like much more than an inconvenience and threat to your privacy, think of the implications of an attacker gaining access to your social security number or your medical records.

One of the best ways to protect information or physical property is to ensure that only authorized people have access to it.  In the cyber world, passwords are the most common means of authentication, but if you don't choose good passwords or keep them confidential, they're almost as ineffective as not having any password at all.  Many systems and services have been successfully broken into due to the use of insecure and inadequate passwords, and some viruses and worms have exploited systems by guessing weak passwords.

Here is a review of tactics to use when choosing a password:

  • Don't  use  passwords  that are based on personal information that can be easily accessed or guessed.
  • Don't  use  words  that  can  be  found  in  any dictionary of any language.
  • Develop a mnemonic for remembering complex passwords.
  • Use both lowercase and capital letters.
  • Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Use different passwords on different systems.

There's no guarantee that these techniques will prevent an attacker from learning your password, but they will make it more difficult.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Desktop Exercises to Prevent Repetitive Stress Injuries

To Prevent Injuries at Your Desk Job, Just Relax

Neck strain, eye strain, back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome – you’re at risk for all these problems and more if you’re spending long, uninterrupted hours at your computer. In addition to some basic measures like setting up a more ergonomic work space and taking occasional breaks throughout the day, you can also do exercises that can help keep you flexible, relaxed, and injury free.


Hand stretches: Extend your arm directly in front of you, palm out. Gently pull each of your fingers back toward your wrist, then do all four at once to stretch the palm.


Arm/upper back stretches: Cross your right arm over your chest and place your left hand just above your elbow. Pull your arm across chest and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with your left arm. 


Lower back stretches: Stand up, put your hands on your hips, and lean back. Then slowly bend forward from the waist, letting your head and hands hang down.


Hand wiggle: Let your hands hang loose by your sides and shake them for 5-10 seconds.


Shoulder roll: Roll your shoulders forward 5 times and backward 5 times.


Eye rest: Every 30 minutes, look away from your computer screen and focus on something in the distance to let your eye muscles relax.


If you’re experiencing back pain or tingling or numbness in your hands, you may want to consult a doctor or physical therapist for treatment and advice.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Email Habits That Can Reduce Spam

Worried About Spam?  Stop Forwarding Emails!

Do you get a lot of emails asking you to sign a petition for a good cause? Are you constantly being asked to send a message along to 10 of your closest friends under threat of a lifetime of bad luck? No matter how good the cause or how dire the threat, there’s pretty much never a good reason to forward emails to large groups of people. Almost all of those messages are from telemarketers and spammers looking for a way to validate active email accounts so that they can keep sending you more spam.

When you see an email that asks you to forward it along, chances are it’s doing one of two things. It’s either tracking the cookies and addresses of the people to whom you forward the email, or the host sender is getting a copy each time it gets forwarded so they can keep a list of active addresses to sell to other spammers and use in future emails.


If you have been forwarding these types of email, now you know why you get so much spam! And you can reduce your spam by resisting the urge to forward or add your name to email petitions. Email petitions are not accepted by Congress or other legitimate organizations, which require a handwritten signature and the full address of the person signing the petition.  


You might even tell your friends about it, too…in person!


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Eliminating Cord and Cable Clutter

Get Cords and Cables Under Control

Years ago, the average office desk used to have just one thing on top of it: a typewriter. Now you've probably got a phone, a computer, and a monitor at minimum. Chances are you have a laptop as well, and occasionally plug your cellphone or iPod into an available USB port for charging or downloading. In a home office you'll likely have connections to a backup hard drive, a wireless router, and a printer/fax as well. Add it all up and that translates to a big pile of loose cords and cables gathering dust under your desk.


There are plenty of options besides leaving your cords in a snarled heap around a power strip on your floor. Here's just a few:


1. Use an under-desk cord tray like this one from Ikea. It keeps cords hidden away, and separates cables that are sensitive to interference.


2. Turn an attractive box into a charging station.  Keep the power cord in the box, and cut holes in its side for all the cords you use most frequently: phone charger, iPod connector, USB cord, and so on. You may encounter some heat and ventilation issues here, so this isn't a great solution for always-on use.


3. Use nylon cable ties bundle and classify. Stores like Office Depot and Radio Shack carry these adjustable ties so that you can neatly bundle up the cords you don't use often and more easily identify the ones that do. Office Depot also carries a cord management system that lets you bundle your cables and wires and then stow them in a 40" tube.


As with any DIY project, you should make sure your de-cluttering project doesn't result in fire, electrocution, or widespread destruction of office property -- so take the proper precautions and be sure to ask before you start drilling holes in community equipment.