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Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

    With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

    Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

    In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

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    The easy fundamentals

    First thing is first; creating a strong password.

    A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

    Here are some examples of strong passwords:
    * i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
    * ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
    * mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

    And not so good examples
    * sammy1234
    * password123
    * christopher

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    You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

    Managing your passwords

    I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

    So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

      1Password can be locked down with a master password to protect all of your sensitive data.

      There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

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      Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

      LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

      Upkeep

      You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

      There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

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      Alternatives

      You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

      1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
      2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
      3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

      These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

      So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on July 2, 2020

      13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them

      13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them

      In life, we encounter problems as we breathe. But it doesn’t get to us until we feel a major impact, and that’s when it becomes a source of concern, hurt, or sorrow.

      Life problems, depending on their magnitude, can be clogs in the wheel of progress, and we may not be able to attain our full potential if we don’t learn to place our problems in the proper perspectives as suggested in Robert Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last.

      In this article, I have identified some common areas where you will most likely face problems as you make progress towards reaching your full life potential. I have also suggested practical approaches in handling, managing, and solving such problems.

      1. Financial Crisis

      We live in an uncertain world and a financial crisis may come at different stages of life. While you should always anticipate and prepare for a financial crisis, it may still catch you off guard or the magnitude may be far more than any preparation you have made over the years.

      It could be that you lost your job or a major investment, got slammed with a lawsuit that threatens your savings, or have your livelihood be affected by a major disaster. So what do you do when you are in a financial mess?

      Solution

      To overcome a financial crisis, you will have to come to terms with the crisis. Acknowledge and accept the situation and begin recovery by setting your financial priorities right.

      The next thing to do is to identify the cause of the crisis. If it’s due to a job loss, then your effort should be directed at getting a new job. If it is having multiple debts, look for ways to consolidate your debt so that your monthly debt repayment can be consolidated into one instead of being burdened with multiple payments.

      You can also sell some of your assets to raise money to save the situation, or look for a better job if you are earning less at your current job. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family and friends if you need to.

      2. Health Crisis

      Another major problem that might come up in your life is a health crisis. This is not far-fetched because our body systems work round-the-clock, even when we are sleeping. As a result of this, and if you don’t maintain routine health habits, health deterioration might begin to set in. Things might even get serious if you don’t attend to it early.

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      Solution

      When you are facing a major health crisis, the first thing to do is to consider lifestyle changes. This includes cutting down on junks, eating healthy diets, exercising, breathing fresh air, taking some sun, etc.

      Apart from the lifestyle changes, you have to seek quality medical help and make sure you get different opinions about the state of your health so you can get the best affordable care.

      3. Relationship, Marriage, and Family

      There may not be anything as sweet as love and family life, but it can also be the source of pain for some. Human imperfections in a relationship can cause a major crisis in life. This has been a stumbling block to many on their path to fulfillment.

      Solution

      The best thing to do is to prevent relationship problems from happening, but if they do happen, you need to face reality and begin to take steps towards addressing them. Do your best to keep the lines of communication open as this can help in strengthening your struggling relationship. Talk about the challenges with your partner and look for common grounds.

      You can also arrange to see a counselor together or read books that address the specific challenges you are facing. The worst thing you can do is to end a relationship and that’s only when you have exhausted all other options.

      4. Workplace

      The workplace is supposed to be a place where we dutifully render the services for which we’ve been hired.

      However, it is not impossible to face animosity at work—dealing with toxic people who would rather not see any good in what you do. It might be caused by differences in background, attitudes, and unhealthy competition that can result in personal conflicts. This can create undue stress and reduce productivity.

      Solution

      Be as professional as possible when dealing with toxic people. Be kind and show understanding, and try to avoid personal confrontation.

      You can even try to reach out to the persons and invite them over for a coffee and get to understand their worldview. This can help you to connect with them at their level so that you can avoid unnecessary stress for yourself.

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      5. Career Pressure

      In your quest to become more successful, you will likely encounter work-related pressure. Such can come when trying to stabilize your career or climb the career ladder. It can also come as a result of overworking and having no life. Career pressure is one of the most common life problems.

      Sometimes, it may be that the promotion you are working hard to get is not coming or positions you are qualified for are being offered to others. The pressure can get more intense when you find that most of your colleagues are moving ahead of you.

      Solution

      Check to find if you have personal or attitudinal problems. Some attitudinal problems can put you at a disadvantaged end. It may be poor communication, poor personal grooming, or poor relationship and networking skills. If it is any of these problems, then work on improving yourself in those areas.

      You can also observe your colleagues who are succeeding and take note of what they are doing differently.

      6. Unfair Treatment

      We are in a world where some people often think they have some privileges over others and may want to exercise this thinking and treat others unfairly. If you find yourself in an environment where you are being oppressed or treated badly because of your race, gender, or current status, this can make you feel really bad and can also affect your psyche and productivity.

      Solution

      There is the temptation to decry your treatment, defend yourself, and demand a change immediately, but you should really wait for the right opportunity to do that.

      When the time is right, reach out directly to the person or authority involved, and make it private. Meanwhile, you should be factual about the instances of your unfair treatments. Don’t just say it that you are being treated badly; give several undeniable instances.

      Once you’ve made your grievances known politely, keep being you. If things don’t change, you can cocoon yourself in that environment. If you have an option to leave, you can do so as well.

      7. Emptiness and Boredom

      When you are in a rut, everything becomes normal, dull, unproductive, and yet difficult to change. This can lead to feelings of emptiness and boredom. This may not seem like a serious life problem, but it can have a great impact on your life.

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      Solution

      To overcome boredom and emptiness, break out of your routines, and deliberately create a new experience for yourself. If you can’t leave your job to find a new one, start doing other things that reflect your true passion. Sometimes, the things that give us the needed drive in life are not our day jobs.

      8. Confusion

      Confusion is described as a change in mental status in which a person is not able to think with their usual level of clarity.[1]. It is inherent in forgetfulness and lack of concentration.

      It can be caused by different things including medical and environmental factors. It can also be due to the experience of a loss, a heartbreak, or abuse.

      Solution

      Don’t allow the situation to deteriorate into something more serious. Try to snap out of whatever experiences you have had that is causing confusion. Seek medical help if necessary or talk to a psychologist.

      9. Friendship Problems

      We need friends in our lives to rob minds and hang out together and even help us when we run into trouble. But many people have found themselves in serious trouble as a result of the company of friends they keep. They’ve experienced jealousy, backstabbing, and betrayal of trust. Some friends have even used the information freely provided in times of friendship to betray trust.

      Solution

      Don’t open up on everything to friends. Keep some information only to yourself. If you notice that a friend is working against you, confront them with the truth. Limit your interaction with them or get rid of such toxic friends completely.

      10. Haunting Past

      We all have pasts, and we might have done some crazy stuff in the past before we begin to live a more civilized and decent life. But sometimes, the past comes back haunting. It’s even worse when life problems of the past haunt you back and become problems of the present.

      It may be that what you have done is now striking your conscience, keeping you awake at night. Or someone who knows about it is trying to use it against you, and it is standing in the way of your progress.

      Solution

      Be true to yourself and forgive yourself. If it is an issue with another person, you can reach out to the person to settle with them. If it is a secret that is now being leaked out, own up to it, take responsibility, and move on.

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      11. Safety and Security

      You may find yourself in an environment where there have been unexplained murder, gun violence, police brutality, insurgencies, and other life-threatening situations. This can make you feel like you might be the next victim. What should you do in this situation?

      Solution

      Ensure that you watch where you go and keep your home secure. You can also get involved in a neighborhood community watch to collectively find solutions to the threat. If the situation persists, you can move to a more secure location.

      12. Failure

      Failure can bring disappointment and can also slow the pace of progress. But failure is also part of life, and we have to learn to deal with it. But what do you do when an experience of failure weighs you down?

      Solution

      You can read a book or biography to get inspired by other people’s success stories.

      13. Grief

      No one loves to grief but we can’t totally shield ourselves from it. The loss of a loved one is painful and, if not properly handled, can lead to an emotional breakdown.

      Solution

      Take your time to express emotions. You can also pen an emotional tribute to the individual. Writing can help us bring out the feelings that cannot be expressed otherwise, and it helps us breathe a sigh of relief.

      You can also cope with your grief by helping them to realize some of their unfulfilled dreams or do something in their honor. Lastly, while you think about your loss, you will still have to move on, accepting the fact that life is transient.

      The Bottom Line

      Problems are what make life worth living. They help us adapt to become tougher as we adapt to different situations. Always remember that whatever problem you are facing has a solution or, at least, a manageable approach.

      Therefore, never allow your challenges to stop you from fulfilling your true potentials in life.

      More Tips to Help You Get Unstuck

      Featured photo credit: Danka & Peter via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Medicinet: Confusion: Symptoms & Signs

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