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18 September 2012

Tighten Security for Fall Equinox

How are you preparing for the autumnal equinox on Saturday? I decided it was a good time to tighten security and change my passwords.

Remove Risky or Unused Applications
Recently Java took a hit from several directions when pundits blasted Oracle for not repairing the security risks  in the applet and others opined that Java really is a application that has outlived it’s usefulness anyway.

In light of these stories, I thought it might be a good idea to evaluate ALL the installed applications on my computer. I was surprised by the number of applications I had not used in months or even years! For me, it was time to do a little computer cleaning and get rid of applications that were just taking up space and not contributing to my experience. You, too might want to remove Java and any applications you no longer use that are installed on your computer.

Change Passwords
I also decided it was time to do my periodic changing of passwords. Passwords should be changed at least twice per year for applications and websites that don’t get a lot of use and at least monthly for those that you use daily.

For websites that are regularly hacked (e.g., Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, etc.), I highly recommend that you use unique passwords for each profile. Using different passwords for each site increases your security. If one of your accounts on one of these sites IS hacked, you haven’t made it easy for the nefarious person to troll thru your entire online life wreaking havoc everywhere. Instead, the breach will be contained to just one site. I take my security to the next level and have unique passwords for everything that requires a password on-line.

Write it Down
In an office (that you share with others) it’s not a smart idea to write your password down anywhere in your office. At home there’s no reason NOT to write down your passwords.

For office passwords a trick I’ve used in the past to help me remember a password was to use a simple word from a foreign language (e.g., German), numbers associated with someone’s birthday, and a symbol (e.g., Donnerstag21!).

Since I now work full time in a home office, I no longer use this method. The method I use now is a lot more secure, because I can write down each unique password.

Revoke Access
Social media sites try to convince you it’s a great idea to use single sign-on (e.g., using Facebook or Twitter to log into other applications). In theory, this does sound like a time saver. In reality, you open yourself to a lot of ‘sharing behind the scenes’ among these applications when you do so. In some cases, you probably don’t care that sharing is going on, or it makes sense to share information. However, in other cases, you may be “over-sharing” with your friends and these third-party applications (e.g., Do you really want all of your Facebook Friends to know what you just listened to on Spotify?)

Here’s a link to a site that has been created to help users easily update access on common social media sites.

  1. Click on each social media button.
  2. It will be a direct link to the page within that social media site that lists the applications that have access to your social media profile (e.g., Facebook).
  3. Review the list and delete the apps you no longer use or that you no longer want to have access to your profile.

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