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Apps for all your passwords

There's no question that society is going in a direction that's heavily influenced by new technology and the Internet. Within the last decade alone, the Internet has been the driving force in many changes to our daily way of life. With that change comes a host of usernames and passwords.

There are countless programs, apps and websites that require usernames and passwords for you to gain access to them.

"I pay a lot of our bills online. Consequently as a result of that, you have to have passwords to get into everything you want to do," Dave Perry said.

You can only remember so much. So what do you do? Well that depends on who you ask. Many people we spoke to say they have come up with their own solutions for remembering their countless usernames and password.

"In order to remember all these passwords, I'm not good at remembering things, I never have been. So I just write them down," Perry said.

Danielle Johnson says her solution is simple. She uses the same username and password combination for every account she has.

"I keep a lot of them the same. I mix a few of them up. You split half of them up. If you have two different passwords it's easier to remember that way. Otherwise you're going to just go rambling on," Johnson said.

Writing the information down and storing it in a safe place seems secure enough, but it's not recommended. And if you are one those people who think the solution is to keep all their username password combos the same, experts say no to that, too.

"Some people disagree, but I do think the idea of keeping a book or some kind of log at home is a good idea. I would limit the information I keep in there though," Best Buy Geek Squad Specialist, Clayton Tate said.  "As for keeping them all the same, it's kind of like having one key to everything for your digital self. If you have your car keys, your house keys, your key to your office at work and they're all one key, what happens if somebody gets that key? Well, they have access to everything."

Tate says that same rule applies online. Hackers have become extremely advanced over the years. If the password you use for everything was ever compromised, that could open the door for a world of trouble.

"Think of everything you have secured with it. Let's try the most obvious, which is going to be things like your banking account. If that password gets stolen, then they have access to your account," Tate said. "They can do wire transfers, to and from your account or open up credit cards in your name. Even if you say you know your baking is secure, well what about your Facebook or email?"

It may not have monetary repercussions, but a hacked social media or email account could also be pretty dangerous. Think of employers, or colleagues who might see vile and unauthorized posts or emails sent from your account.

Creating a secure password isn't always an easy process. Usually it's suggested that you change them every 60 to 90 days. Then there are the requirements about uppercase letters, lowercase letters. Numbers, and symbols. The list goes on and on.

But there are solutions, and one of them might be in your smart phone.

"Password management programs. You can find them for your cell phone. There are some for mobile devices. There are some that will be a part of your web browser, like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Firefox," Tate said.

Essentially, password management apps act as a digital vault for all your important information. By entering a simple four-digit code, all your usernames and passwords can be stored in one place.

"I think a lot of people aren't aware of them yet because they are something that started developing really kind of recently. Five years ago, how many passwords did you have? Probably not many. Nowadays you have passwords for everything. These management apps are something that really started growing more recently," Tate said. "I actually use a password management app myself and they really do help. Make sure you do some research on those though so you're sure its not one that's malicious and trying to steal your information."

Password management apps seem to be on the rise. Judging from the reviews on many of the program's pages, people seem to be confident in them. The folks we spoke with had differing opinions when it came to whether or not they would turn to the app to solve their password problems. 

"I've done it a few times, with notebooks, but they get lost all the time. I probably would use the apps," Johnson said.

For Perry and his wife, however, coming from another generation, the app just doesn't seem like the best idea.

"There's so much phone theft that you hear about. I'd be a little wary about putting it in my phone. Write them down on a piece of paper," Perry said.

The folks over at Best Buy and the Geek Squad were kind enough to send us a list of different techniques for creating secure passwords and useful tips for remembering them.

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  • With everything from your bank account to your favorite shopping sites being accessed online, it's important to keep your passwords protected to avoid having your private information accessed by a stranger.
  • Typical targets for password hacking are email, social networking and banking websites.
  • Another trend Geek Squad Agents are seeing more and more is hacking smartphone passwords via untrusted programs that a user downloads to the phone thinking that the program does one thing when in reality it's stealing your information (this is similar to a 'trojan' malware item on a PC).

To help keep your Wi-Fi network secure and your personal data safe from prying eyes, here are a few simple "password ground rules" that Geek Squad Agents encourage consumers to live by:

  • Geek Squad recommends that you treat your password like the key to your front door. Think about this when you create your password. Would you leave your front door open to everyone? Probably not. Pick a strong password and don't share it or write it down.
  • Never use a personal nickname, pet name, birth date, address, or other public information as your password. Public records are too easy to get a hold of these days and it may be effortless for someone to get into your account if you are using one of these as your password.
  • Never use the logon ID (user), in any form, as your password. For instance, if your logon ID is JohnSmith, do not use "jsmith," "smith.john," or "johns" as a password.
  • Try not to use a password that contains only words in the dictionary. There are types of attacks that basically can try all the words in the dictionary to crack your password. For example, using "purpledog" as a password isn't a good idea. Also stay away from easy patterns on the keyboard such as "qwerty" or "asdfghjk." Common phrases such as "password," "1234," and "secret," should also be avoided.
  • Passwords should be at least eight characters long and contain both numbers and letters; a capital letter or two should be used if the password is case-sensitive. You can substitute letters for vowels, typically 4 for A, 3 for E, zero for O, and 1 for L.
  • Some people take a sentence or phrase that means something to them and use the first letter(s) of each word of the sentence for their password. Such as "I picked a really good password!" could translate to: "1pArG00dP!"
  • Change your passwords every 60 to 90 days, and use different passwords for different websites. If your wireless network, banking, email, computer login, and school ID all use the same password, what would happen if someone figured it out? Within minutes they could have access to all of those websites!
  • Geek Squad also recommends that if you believe you have been hacked you should immediately disconnect your device from the internet and have an Agent take a look at it. Typically, 'hacking' a password also involves having malware on your computer, which is an entire issue within itself that needs to be remedied. You can contact an Agent 24/7 at 1.800 GEEK SQUAD, www.geeksquad.com or at any Best Buy store. 
  • And most importantly: No major company, entity, or representative of such company/entity should EVER ask you to type, speak, or otherwise have you give them your password. Especially if you get an email that asks you to fill out information including accounts/passwords, UNLESS you have specifically asked to reset your password first!

Other tips for detecting viruses include:

  • Do a quick, free diagnostic scan for spyware and viruses by going to the Geek Squad Security Center
  • Do not open an email, click on a link or open an attachment from someone you do not know.
  • Install anti-spyware programs and anti-virus programs from companies such as Kaspersky, VIPRE, Norton, McAfee or BitDefender.
  • Make sure your operating system is up to date. Set your operating system to check, download and install updates automatically. This will further protect your system, in case you forget to check for updates yourself.
  • Pay attention to your computer for warning signs. If it starts behaving strangely or running particularly slowly, it could be infected. Update your anti-virus software and start a new, full-system scan.

 

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