Techno Tuesday: Securing your data – Passwords

There are many ways to secure your files and documents.  The best way to secure documents is by saving them with a password. You might think that this is simple but there are many tips and tricks for choosing a password. This week I will be looking at passwords and protecting you documents and your PC as well as using a password management system.

Lets first discuss password protecting documents and files at the office.  When at work, when securing files and protecting documents, please do not go and choose a personal password.  I made this mistake recently and now I am moving departments and have to give my personal password to my colleagues taking over.  I am hoping they don’t realise that this password will give them access to other websites I am on.  I am now in a frantic mode of changing all my passwords on work documents to something more work-related yet secure.

Remember to secure your PC physically at work as well especially if you work in an open plan office.  I have set my screen saver to go on after 2 minutes and then when I come back and move my mouse to start working, it will asks me to login. It’s slightly painful to keep logging in if you pause for two minutes but its seriously worth it if you think of the consequences – especially when you have nosy or untrustworthy colleagues.   Open your control panel as follows: Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Personalization 

Set your screensaver to 2 minutes (or whatever you choose) and then click on “on resume display login screen”. 

There are many ways to choose a password, but experts agree that the more passwords you have the better.  Of course, using the same password for numerous services is incredibly unsafe. If one account is taken over, it can be just a matter of time that others are, too.  There are also random password generating websites out there. But then remembering these passwords can be tricky.

Many hackers know that if they get one password out of you they can try their luck and access many other documents or programmes or website accounts. 

So my top tips are as follows:

  1. ALWAYS keep your banking password separate to any and every other password. NEVER write it down or type it out anywhere!
  2. Always change your passwords regularly. Set a recurring calendar reminder each month to update your passwords.
  3. Avoid using normal dictionary words. Make up words if you want to. “Likeahashapoopoo” might make a good password!
  4. Have you ever thought of using a sentence for a password? Like “seeifyoucanhackthis!!” (Exclamation marks included)!
  5. Make your sentence even harder: An example I found: "I love skateboarding and reading" becomes "I<3sk8b0rd1ng&r3ad1ng". 
  6. Based on the above use a newly invented language. E = 3, L = 1 A = @. It will be complicated yet easy at the same time!
  7. Don’t forget to use Capital letters, special symbols (like @# and ! as mentioned above) , numbers etc. Also avoid using your name in your password and your date of birth.

So how can you effectively store the many passwords you need to remember?  The best and almost secure way (since we can never guarantee anything is 100% secure), is to use a key chain or password manager system.

“What is this thing”? I hear you mumbling!  Well, it is a secure system that literally stores all your passwords.  All you need to do is to remember one (hopefully complicated) password that will give you access to all your other passwords. And the best part is that it is all secure.

Again, please don’t store your banking password anywhere except in your head. 

The password management system that I use is KeePass. This is a funky little database for passwords that you can download onto your local drive (minimising security issues) and takes one (complicated) password to access.  See, we can make this easy for you! You can consider this password management system by logging onto http://keepass.info/ KeePass downloads its database onto your hard drive and its easy and simple to access and manage!  One password! That’s all we need to remember!

There are others to choose from but like everything else, research properly, ask your IT department for advice and recommendations and keep cyber-safe!

Written for OPSA by Marié Mieny

Marié Mieny is an administrator within the School of IT at Monash South Africa (MSA).  She has been at MSA for 13 years of which 7 years have been in the School of IT

Marié has a reputation for revolutionising the mundane tasks she is given by using technology to make her very efficient and effective in her job. As a result her school is one of the top schools at MSA with a reputation of being highly organised and effective.

Marié has two honours degrees – one in Criminology and one in Psychology.  She plans on doing her Masters in the near future

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