Financial Advisor Marketing & Technology

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Kanye West, Passwords, And Computer Security

Work it harder, make it better,
Do it faster, makes us stronger

Kanye West, Stronger

Okay, so Kanye West probably wasn’t thinking about computer security when he wrote the song, Stronger. But that is a great song and a great way to make a point about creating "strong" passwords.

I need you right now to know how easy it is for hackers to crack you. Google "password cracker software" and you get the idea.

As an advisor, you probably store client data on your office computer network, or maybe you provide clients with access to their accounts online. Since most passwords that people create are regarded by security experts as “weak,” it would be wise to take Kanye’s advice when it comes to passwords: “Work it harder, make it better.”

An estimated 40% of passwords are guessable by cracker programs. These programs run “dictionary attacks.” They programmatically go through every word in the dictionary to guess your password.

Some cracker programs combine personal information about a target with the dictionary words. So if a hacker steals your computer or hacks your office, they may snoop around to find your date of birth, phone number, kids’ names, and other personal data. Then, they use the cracker program to guess your password by creating combinations of your personal data with the dictionary words. Such an attack can literally last days, running through many, many combinations of personal data and random words.

Some of the most common ways you might create weak passwords are when your passwords use:

· nothing—you leave the password field blank
· the words: password, passcode, admin, or guest
· words in the dictionary
· a sequential string of keyboard letters like “qwerty”
· your name or email address
· your spouse’s, child’s, or pet’s name
· your birthplace or date of birth
· your license plate number (or spouse’s)
· your phone number
· spelling your name backwards
· Social Security number
· a curse word

If any of these weak password-creation ideas sound familiar, you’re vulnerable.

What you can do is to fight back. Use techniques for creating strong passwords, and tell your clients how to create strong passwords.

To make passwords stronger, let’s turn to Kanye's big hit again.

My favorite line in that song is: Let's get lost tonight! You can be my black Kate Moss tonight.”

That random phrase can be the basis of a good password. Simply take the first letter and punctuation from every word—Lglt!YcbmbKMt—and make that your password.

In fact, that tactic–using a verse from a song, poem, famous quote or some other random phrase that is forever committed to your memory–can be the basis of a great strong password.

Strong passwords are comprised of the following:

· Capital letters and lower case
· Numbers
· Non-alphanumeric characters and punctuation (!, (, @, #, ), $, %, ^, &, or *)
· 12 to 14 characters

The best passwords appear to be a random string of numbers, letters, and special characters. But they can be a memorable phrase or based on a phrase that has meaning to you, or based loosely on the first address you lived at as a child. More examples:

· 6590160thst,FNY: 65-90 160th Street, Flushing, NY (my first address as a child)
· BOit44thPotU.S.: Barak Obama is the 44th President of the U.S.
· Mf.iWShi'912'99: My favorite period in Wall Street history is '91 to '99

Some other password tips:

· Use one password for low-security applications such as magazine subscriptions and crossword puzzles.
· Remember that email is not secure and that emailing your passwords is unwise.
· Consider using a password-generation and memory program. I use RoboForm (www.roboform.com) and love it.

And, as Kanye would say, “Don’t act like I never told ya’.”

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