Computer Passwords and Being Safe Online.
Computer Passwords and Being Safe Online – One of the pains of the modern world is passwords. However, they are very necessary, unfortunately! Passwords keep us safe and the more complicated the password the safer the thing it is protecting is. However, there is a huge caveat with this statement. Even the most complicated password is useless if you tell someone.
But I wouldn’t tell anyone my password, I hear you cry! Yes, in normal situations, I.e somebody stops you in the street and says ‘ give me your password’ you wouldn’t.
However, if you go to a website and put in your password, and it’s an unfriendly website, dressed up to look like a legitimate website, a spoof website, you’ve just given your password away.
If you’ve answered an email saying that you need to go to a company website to reenter your password because you’ve been locked out of your account, are you sure you really want to click on the link in the email? These ways of gaining somebodies password are known as social engineering. It’s getting you to give away your password. There is a good article on the BBC website that talks about Social engineering. These are the most common ways. Another way to gain a password is through a keystroke logger. It’s a little program or virus that makes a note of all your presses on the keyboard and sends it to the enemy or ‘hacker’.
Rarely, it is the classic Hollywood image of the person hunched over a keyboard running a program that tries lots of different combinations to gain access to something.
Another trick is to use social media posts and quizzes. It’s a big subject so it has its own post. See How to NOT give away your personal data on social media.
As a little primer for this beginner’s guide to Computer Passwords and Being Safe Online, some common terms I have used are browser and address bar. Firstly, let me explain those.
This is what you view the ‘Internet’ on. It’s a little program that lets you see the internet. Whether it is Chrome, Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox or one of the others. The logos you click on look a bit like this;
This is the line on top of your browser where the website address you are currently on appears. You can type in this line, click in it to get the flashing I Beam or cursor, in it. Indeed, if you know the website address you are looking for you can type in this line and not have to go through a search engine to find it. See the picture below for where it is. It’s the bit that is highlighted in yellow
Also, take note of the little padlock, I’ll mention that later. Knowing these terms, if you don’t already, will help you with the words below.
Ok, let’s run through how to avoid scams and help you with Computer Passwords and Being Safe Online
When going to a website always check in the address bar that it is the correct website. See the image below for the address bar. If it is different from what you expect to see, don’t go there!
Here I’ve used pictures from google. The red around the address bar is showing the double ‘N’ in amazon. You wouldn’t get me to go to these websites in real life! For a full explanation see Wiki – Spoof Website. Also, check for the little padlock in the address bar, it means the website has a certain level of encryption. This and the trick below are an example of Phishing. Phishing is basically a fraudulent attempt to gain access to your data.
This is different from the email approach. In the first place, never click on a link in an email. Never. Even if you think it might be genuine. If you are unsure if you have been locked out of your account, type the company web address directly in your browser.
Above, I’m using an example here from my personal email. It’s an email from, allegedly, PayPal.
If I hover (but do not click) over the ‘check your account’ bit, the address it is going to go to appears in the bottom left corner
And that is definitely not a PayPal address! As I said, if you are unsure, type the Web address of the company in question into your browser and see if you have login issues. Another thing to look out for is spelling and grammar in the email. ‘Paypal ask to update your account’ is not great English!
This is the more traditional Hollywood approach. However, it is rarer than the others, because it’s much easier to get someone to give you their password information in one of the above methods. For a more complete definition of hacking, see here – Hacking – Wikipedia.
Also, these days there are those annoying captchas. Sometimes it’s pictures and sometimes it is some letters written funny. This is to prove you are human. A computer program has difficulty identifying numbers or pictures. The Captchas may be annoying but they are a useful security feature…
A reason these exist is to stop the number-crunching brigade. It’s very difficult to program an automated system to recognise pictures. Although not impossible, it’s not readily available to most people.
The major rule is don’t use the same password for everything. Use Capital and lower case letters and numbers and special characters if you can.
Write them down
Contrary to the advice given a few years ago, the best thing is to write them down in a little book. But don’t keep the book next to your computer! And certainly don’t use post-it notes and put them all over your monitor – If you get burgled you’ll be in trouble. Indeed, resetting peoples passwords where they have been forgotten is one of the most common problems people call me about.
Computer Passwords and Being Safe Online – Summary
Mainly, it is just being wary online. Yes, write your complicated passwords down in a little book but don’t keep that next to the computer. If you get one of the emails and you’re not sure, phone the company they purport to be on the phone number on the bill to check. Also, in your pursuit of online safety, it’s worth being aware of scam calls. Read more about How to deal with scam calls here. Let’s be safe out there!