Over the past few months, we have covered a lot of scary topics in this column, from the Krack exploit to ominous pop-ups, and even talked about whether your phone (and other devices) are eavesdropping on you. You may be starting to wonder if there is the slightest of chances to remain safe while you travel around in the virtual online world. This month, we will touch on that section a bit and give you some ideas on how to better be prepared for all of the dangers that lurk at every click of the mouse these days.
One of the first steps you should consider taking would be to research your email address (or addresses) and determine which have become compromised. I can promise you if you have had the email account for longer than a few months, odds are it has been caught in a data breach somewhere. I know of a tech person who likes to state that there are only two types of companies operating online, those that have been hacked, and those that don’t know they’ve been hacked. I tend to agree with this comment, and you can see the results for yourself.
First, a quick little backstory on the word “pwned.” (Yes I spelled that correctly). According to Urban Dictionary, the term pwned originated after a programmer misspelled the word “owned” on a map in the game Warcraft. When a player was defeated, the map was supposed to display “[player name] has been owned,” but instead it stated, “[player name] has been pwned.” Thus, a new internet meme came to life (Google the word “meme” if you are unsure of that one). Now to computer people, pwned means to own or be dominated and is verbally stated either by simply saying owned or adding the “p” sound to the front of it, like the word loaned but with a “p.”
If you visit the website http://haveibeenpwned.com (Have I Been Pwned) and enter your email address, it will show you if your account shows up in a collection of databases commonly utilized by the riffraff of the internet when nefarious attempts are made to access various websites. The site is primarily helpful because not only does it show you if your email has been compromised, it also includes where it was obtained and the origins of the breach that exposed it.
Because of all of this, most tech people highly recommend that you use a unique and secure password for every website where you create an account. The notion of multiple passwords is a daunting proposition, to say the least, as the mere thought of trying to remember and maintain all those different passwords can be intimidating. That is where Password Managers come into the picture. With the use of a proper password manager, your choices expand from having to remember a multitude of different passwords (probably written on little slips of paper around your desk) or use just one single password (or possibly three or four) for your various web accounts. When you use a password manager, you then have to just remember one master password (preferably a good one) to log into your password manager, and then use it to recall all the other passwords. On top of that, the passwords it remembers can be complete nonsense and gibberish because you don’t have to be able to recall them when logging into a site.
Most modern browsers allow you to install extensions or plug-ins and a majority of password managers have one of the extensions to make using their program easier. With the extension installed into your browser when you visit somewebsite.com, the extension recognizes the website you are visiting and will either offer to enter your username and password for you, or it automatically inputs them on your behalf depending on the program and how you have it configured to operate. You merely supply your “master” password to gain access to your password manager account and then allow it to do all the other heavy lifting. Most also have an app you can install on your smartphone that then allows you to access your passwords from wherever you are. And if you are paranoid enough that you don’t want all those passwords stored online, some have an offline version that you can carry around on a USB thumb drive.
For a list of various password manager programs along with reviews, check out this link http://tekamba.link/passwordmanagers and find one that you like. Keep in mind that review sites can sometimes be slightly biased based on their advertisers. I will just say that I have been using LastPass for about eight or nine years and found it to work out amazingly well. I’ve also had experience with RoboForm and Dashlane. Several of them have a free version, but even the most expensive of them ends up costing less than $4/month. So, cut out just one cafe mocha latte each month and make yourself a bit safer online. QCBN
As always, if you have questions about this or any tech related topic, please send us an email at email@example.com. We are also interested in knowing what technology topic you would like to see covered in future columns so send along your thoughts and ideas! Until next time, keep yourself secure.
By Greg Hicks
Tekamba Computers LLC & Cartridge World of Prescott
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