Computer & Identity Protection
This section contains categorized recommendations and guides on how to protect yourself from various aspects of identity theft and computer infections (check the items to the left in the navigation menu). As we progress further into the information age, these kinds of threats are only getting stronger and it's important to be aware of them and have tools for protecting yourself.
We'd like to call out two things in particular which we think are the most important:
This single best thing you can do for yourself is make sure you use strong passwords. Many people shy away from strong passwords because they think they'll never remember them, but it's entirely possible to create a password that is both easy to remember and difficult to crack.
For example, you can take a short name and intersperse the letters with a birthdate. For example, let's suppose I choose the name of my pet cat "Bean" and my wife's birthday "11/14/77" - that password would be "B11e14a77n" (do not use this specific example). Such a password is quite simple to remember, but very difficult to crack since to a computer it's just a random set of letters and numbers.
Some other things to avoid when creating strong passwords:
- Do not write your passwords down - they should be easy to remember in your head but complex (like the example above).
- Do not rely on substitions of numbers or symbols - for example, "P@sswo0rd" These are far too easy to guess.
- Try to avoid using personal information such as your address, birthday, name, social security number, etc. The example above would be much weaker if it were my name and my birthdate.
- Do not use dictionary words in any language - these are among the very easiest passwords to crack.
- Try to avoid using the same password everywhere - we know it's impossible to have a different password for everything, but at least try to compromise and have several different passwords so that if one is broken, the hacker doesn't have the keys to everything.
- For example, you might use the same password for facebook, twitter, and gmail, but use a completely unique password for your online banking.
Check out this nice online tool for seeing how strong a password is.
Trust your instincts
If something seems suspicious, whether it's a strange email, a pop up on your computer, or anything in your digital world, it's probably for good reason. You should take a moment to STOP and consider it. Don't act in a kneejerk reaction (this is the most effective phishing technique - send something that makes the person panic and act rashly, such as a fake notification that you're account is compromised and they need your username and password to fix it as soon as possible).
Instead, take a deep breath and think for a moment about how to handle the situation - if you are unsure (which should be most of the time), then ask us at the Help Desk, or call the bank to verify, etc.