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Secure your computer with a password so that unauthorized users may not have access to your data and personal/confidential information. If you have informations like your taxes, credit card numbers and bank account numbers etc. in your computer (many people pay bills online these days), it is vitally important to protect these sensitive informations with a password. Do not assume nobody will look into your computer. Burglers might break-in and steal information from your computer. Securing the computer with a password is especially important for laptop users or whenever your computer is not physically secured. Home users might want to protect information stored in their computers from their children. If you have a shared computer in your home that is used by your children as well, each user should have a login ID and a password and as the head of the family, you should create an Adiministrator's password.

Learning and practicing the rules of making a hard to crack password is very important. A little effort now can save a lot of headache in the future. Way too many people are lazy about following the principles of a strong password. They just use the same four character password they have for their ATM for just about everything else. This a very unsafe practice. And please remember professional hackers use password cracking software to crack your password. So please do not think who will ever even dream that this is my password. Passwords are cracked by sotware, not by human brain.

Here are the general rules for creating a strong password:

  • Remember most passwords are case-sensitive, i.e., a and A are not the same thing. While creating a password always make sure that your keyboard's Caps Lock button is off. By the same token, while entering your password somewhere, please make sure that your Caps Lock button is off. People sometimes get confused - they think they are entering the correct password, but why the computer is rejecting it? In such cases the reason often is they are unaware of the fact that their Caps Lock button is ON. Since you can never see what you are typing for password (it usually shows as dots or asterisks), it is hard to realize that you are typing incorrect cases for the letters! So please pay attention. Turn off that Caps Lock button.

  • The longer the password, the stronger it is. Always use at least 7-8 characters, preferably 13-15 characters.

  • Always make your password alpha-numeric, i.e., use both letters of the alphabet and numbers in your password. You must also have both upper case and lower case letters in your password. Capitalize at least one letter, preferably more. Also, you should include at least one (preferably more) symbols (like ^ ; ? / @ * & ! ~ + . , - % " etc.) in your password.

  • Never use any easy to guess words like your name, your spouse's name, your kid's name, your address, birth dates, phone numbers, anniversary dates etc. in your password.

  • Never use any words that is available in the dictionary of any language in your password. Misspelled words are okay, but avoid common misspellings.

  • Windows XP and some other systems and software compitable with Windows XP accept use of spacebar in the password. So consider making a passphrase instead of a password like "My neighbor's son Joey just turned 3." This sentence written exactly as shown is a pretty strong passphrase, especially if you keep all the puctuation marks including the last period and quotation marks in it. But it contains words found in an English dictionary. So you can make this passphrase even stronger by modifying the sentence a little bit by incorporating some deliberate typos and misspelled words as shown below:

    "Mie neghbor"s sunn Joee jost turned3,"

    Don't worry about the length of the passphrase much. Few people know that Windows XP accepts passphrases upto 255 characters long.

    If it is too much for you to remember what alterations you had done to the original simple sentence "My neighbor's son Joey just turned 3.", then you can try to convert this passphrase to this shorter password "Mn'ssJjt3." by taking the first letters of each word and keeping the punctuation marks and the number intact. Got the idea?

  • Do write down the password (because everybody forgets) but keep the written password in a secure place, preferably under lock and key. Never write it on a post-it note and stick it on your monitor! That defeats the whole purpose of creating passwords.

  • Do not have Windows XP remember any of your passwords espcially if you have social security number, finacial information, and other sensitive information stored in your computer. Again, common sense plays a big role in your security. Do not depend on others to tell you everything!

  • Passwords should also be changed every 3 months or so. Some people recommend more frequent changing. But if you make a strong password using the principles discussed above, for ordinary home users changing the password once every 3 or 4 months should be adequate.

  • Finally, please remember no password gives is 100% security. Since passwords are cracked with software, it is only a matter of time how soon they can be cracked. Easy passwords can be cracked in seconds or minutes, whereas strong passwords might need hours to crack!



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