Password House of Cards

One of the password golden rules is that you do not reuse passwords.

To secure you valuables and information you need a password for everything. From social media accounts to banks and credit cards from e-commerce to website logins and apps logins. The list goes on and on and on, you get the picture. We are hosing passwords we cannot remember on the cloud. What makes everything worse is that we still get hacked because our password are not strong enough. By the way this happens even with strong passwords. It just takes hackers a little longer. 

The stronger your passwords the more difficult it is to remember so we buy apps to help us remember.

They are sold with the promise that you just need to remember only one password, the master password. The others are stored online for you. Now big companies have created an even riskier way of storing your passwords. It’s called “Login with Facebook”, Login with Apple” and “Login with Email”. Essentially what this means is the you give your life’s information to one of the three. Compromised accounts in the past should actually deter us from using them but we still do. It’s convenient and easy, that is until you get hacked. 

I scanned my passwords file to see how many access points I had and how many different password I had. Strangely, I found fewer unique passwords which means I repeat some of my passwords on multiple logins. I also realised how many I cannot remember except the few I used frequently. So is there a solution to this? The simple answer is NO and the easy answer is YES but unless you live in times when the internet did not exist the answer remains a firm NO. Solution that I use are:

  • Change your password as frequently as possible and 
  • Where possible also use the fingerprint facility and photo Id and
  • Use a very strong password

There are a number of available apps which offers high encryption. You need to make up your mind which is suitable for your needs. I tried from the list below and settled on one of them and my phone. There are much much more to choose from.

  • Your phone – outdated but still my favourite
  • LastPass – all OS at a fee
  • 1Password – all OS at a fee
  • Dashlane – all OS at a fee

All these solutions offers accessibility anywhere on any operating system by charging a monthly or annual subscription. This is supposedly aimed at making your life easier, until you passwords become for sale because the company was hacked. It is strange how we so easily relinquish our security at a price with no guarantees. Ironic, considering every website and bank says not to share your PIN or password with anyone. Once you pay your information is no longer just yours but everyone else who can crack that company’s encryption.

The reason we increase security for our house is either because we live in a bad neighbourhood or our house was broken into or we fear that our house might be broken into. Don’t get me wrong, I use one of these systems and has worked very well for me over the years. I love the security of my phone. It’s with me all the time, password protected either with my fingerprint or facial recognition and it can only be hack by someone who physically has to access my phone. Before I converted to the online subscription apps I used a notepad on my phone with a password. So I had double encryption. My phone PIN and password protected notepad to access my password list. The downside is that if I were lose my phone I have to start from scratch. Trust me that’s not fun at all. 

Lastly, change you master password regularly and make it as strong as possible. 

It’s the only one you really have to remember. 

Computer Virus and Corona Virus

My computer was infected by viruses the other day. This is my fourth time. After the first time I took precautions and thought it will never happen to me again. And then it did happen again. I added more security but I did not change my computer and when I did I forgot about the virus security. I only realised one day that my new computer was infected, AGAIN. Why me, I thought. What this showed me is that no matter how strong my security can be, if I slip up and forget to lock the door i.e. don’t update my antivirus software, my computer will get infected. They say once beaten twice shy however in the case of viruses, computer or biological, it’s “x” to the power of (n) shy. You will be beaten over and over and over and over again… you get it right? Right.

While the world panics around corona (COVID-19), the world forget about the sinister underground world of hacking and information hijacking. Computer viruses are as old as the computers themselves and while biological viruses are quickly attended to, the world quickly declares the national disaster, your computer virus is your own problem. Yet these viruses have the potential to wreak as much have and their biological counterparts.

So, what happened to my computer when it was infected by this virus. My computer started slowing down almost to a halt. I keep an eye of my computer resources so I could quickly check them. Then things heated up and I saw that my computer’s hard disk space was being reduced, as if an installation was happening right before my eyes. My internet modem was very active for no device surfing the net. It was as if I was downloading a very big file. My hard disk space reduced by 15gb in two hours.

I tried a few things just to be sure 

  1. I disconnected my laptop from my Wi-Fi and the modem calmed down, 
  2. my disk space stopped reducing space, 
  3. I left them for 30 minutes to makes sure, 
  4. I restarted my laptop after 30 minutes, reactivated wi-fi back on and watched as the process continued. 

I knew this was a virus infection. Unfortunately even without the internet you never really know what the virus is doing in the background so the only alternative is a vaccine or in this case an antivirus software.

How does this happen, how does a computer virus attack your computer? Unlike biological viruses you computer cannot be infected by touch or sneezing or coughing. You physically have to install it, sometime without even know that you are. How you would you not know, ask? We love free stuff, we click on links that promises us free games or free software. We open email links from unknown sources. This is the cough or physical contact that the virus needs to infect your computer. 

My virus software shows that there are an estimated 14,441,873 Total Virus Signatures in the world, that’s 14 million signatures that you have to protect your computer against. These viruses ranges from the simplest one that just slows you computer down to the ones that takes over the world by hijacking information for a fee, called ransomware. Some companies have lost information and had close their doors due to some of these viruses. 

You are probably thinking, you don’t have much that hackers may want to steal from you right? WRONG. Think about it for a minute and you’ll see how wrong you really are, for example:

1) You identity could be used to create credit card debts or take over your life i.e identity theft,

2) Your picture or that of your family, with photoshop can be placed on anyones body and put on the internet,

3) Your bank account can be drained of all your money in a matter of minutes, maybe even seconds,

4) The passwords you use can be stolen and used for criminal purposes.

The list goes on. Now all of this happens in seconds or minutes but to undo them takes forever plus one month. So how do we protect ourselves from this. It’s not easy or fullproof. With biological viruses, a visit to your doctor who then prescribes antibiotics, exercise, sleep, fluids, etc and you get better at least until next time. The course of action is almost similar for computer viruses, except you’re the doctor who needs to research reputable software companies to help you combat the virus, at a fee. You paid the doctor, so why not the antivirus company. Is it worth the investment? Yes and no.

Technology imitates life or visa versa

Yes, in that it creates a feeling of your computer being secure by doing this and to an extend it is protected as long as you update your software and pay your subscription. This is going to become even more vital as we all migrate to the cloud. No, in that if you kept up your end of the deal i.e. your software is up to date and your subscription paid up and you still get hacked or your computer is infected with a virus, you have no recourse from the antivirus company in the same way as you have no recourse against a doctor if the medication he prescribed does not offers relief.

So what did I do differently this time around. Nothing really. I found and ran some of the free antivirus tools which found nothing. I also ran the premium software at a basic scan and it also found nothing. I then ran a full scan, overnight because it takes very long and slows down your computer a bit. It found and cleaned 19 viruses. I ran the full scan for the second time just to make sure. Did it work, I don’t know. Only time will tell.

Most people would probably have started looking at buying a new computer because this. As I just showed you, it is not slow, it was just sick. The cost of buying a new computer in comparison to the work I did is ten times less. Yes it took some time to assess and restore it to the usable state but I can probably still use it for and few more years, by only updating my software. 

Acteq It Solutions is an information technology company which help clients keep up with advanced technology by keeping it up to date for them and saving them time and money in the process. Our technicians have years’ of experience in dealing with security issues such as this. Put us to the test.

Passwords – Protect your own

The most common entry into your property or house is through the physical doors. Your physical possessions are contained in your house, you family also. What is becoming more valuable is information. With information, your life can be turned upside-down. Your bank account can be raided and all the funds stolen. 

Technology has created this illusion that our information is safe. We are giving our personal details very easily with the promise of making our life easy. This is true in most instances but we become complacent in not asking questions why I am so freely given information about my life away. Who am I giving it to and are they going to keep safe. 

We are very quick to click “I agree on the terms and conditions that we don’t take time to read them properly and ask questions. The realisation kicks in we are violated and start asking questions. We get surprised by the answers we are given – terms and conditions. Only then do we realise what we did but by then it may already be too late. Hackers loves the fact that we are so casual about our information. Constantly we are told to create strong passwords but it is an inconvenience because we are afraid we will forget them, which we do. Or we use one password for all our logins. All a hacker has to do is gain access to that password and they can take over your life. 

Small business using technology are at a high risk of financial loss due to access to all business information being given to one person because they trust them. Before they know that trust has been violated. We all know this, the simple rules to safeguard your information:

  1. Use very strong passwords with a combination of alphanumeric capital and characters. 
  2. Each login should have its own unique password that complies to number 1 above. 
  3. The same way you don’t give your house keys to stranger, never give your password to anyone especially via a telephone or email. 
  4. Don’t click on strange links asking you to enter your details. 
  5. Verify the source of the email asking you for information before responding. If unsure, delete the email. 

Here are 2020 examples of a bad passwords (Google search will show you more) that are being used and to avoid at all cost. If any of them look at all familiar, go and change the respective account login credentials immediately – 1) 12345, 2) 123456, 3) 123456789, 4) test1, 5) password, 6) 12345678, 7) zinch, 8) g_czechout, 9) asdf, 10) qwerty, 11) 1234567890, 12) 1234567, 13) Aa123456., 14) iloveyou, etc.