Password Protection For Your Computer
You cannot assume that the data stored on your computer is safe. Your confidential information can be compromised in various ways. Family photos, valuable documents, credit card and bank account details can all be lost to damage or theft. Even worse, the passwords to all of your important accounts can be stolen, a factor that could put your assets and identity in jeopardy.
Password Protection Tips
Here are a few password protection tips that will help keep the data on your computer safe:
Always log off: You should completely log off every time you're done working on a computer or using an application. If you don't, someone else can hop on the machine and abuse privileges while your session remains active. If you're logged into a network, someone else can access your account and possibly learn your password.
Never submit passwords via email: The general email system is very insecure. This data is sent in plaintext and can be intercepted at various points during its travel through the network. Sending an email from a computer is like writing it down and handing out your password to anyone that wants it.
Never distribute your username and password together: Always separate the password from the username if you ever need to submit login details for any reason. If these credentials are intercepted, the eavesdropper will have everything they need. However, one cannot be effective without the other.
Use encryption: If you absolutely must transmit passwords via email, protect the data with encryption software. PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is one such program that secures messages by only allowing it to be read by the intended recipient with a corresponding key.
Never use the auto-complete feature: Browsers like Internet Explorer and Firefox come with this feature. Auto-complete makes surfing the web much easier by remembering your usernames and passwords, helping you log into a website much faster. However, these passwords are stored in your computer and can be easily retrieved by experienced crackers. It's also possible that someone could open the browser and log into your account by simply selecting your username from the interface, giving them instant access to your password. Manually entering your password can be done in 15 seconds or less; the convenience of storing your passwords is simply not worth the risk.
Don't store passwords online: Storing passwords on your computer is insecure; storing them online is even worse. There are a few sites that allow you to organize your passwords from a single location and provide access from any computer. While this is a convenient service, there is no way to trust many of these companies. Are you willing to do the research? Do you know how to look into their security policies, backup regime and web servers? If their site happens to go down, your passwords might go down with it.
Password protecting your computer entails many steps, but it's for a good cause. Not everyone will adhere to these guidelines; some may go unharmed while others will be victimized. The best advice is to make careful observations, realize the weaknesses of your passwords and do your best to correct them.