Teens sharing password. This can’t end well.

In more password related news, the New York Times reports:

In a 2011 telephone survey, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 30 percent of teenagers who were regularly online had shared a password with a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend.

Sure it’s a symbol of trust, but we don’t need much of an imagination to see how this can go horribly wrong.

The password sharing results were revealed as part of a larger survey title Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites.

This is what happens when we have a generation growing up without Seinfeld. George taught us to never share our passwords.

Kramer also demonstrated that we should never make passwords about ourselves since they can be guessed easily.

Your password has been stolen. Are you prepared?

From USA Today:

Zappos, the Amazon-owned shoe and apparel retailer, said late Sunday that more than 24 million of its customer accounts had been compromised.

This week I received an email from Zappos, my favorite online shoe store:

We are writing to let you know that there may have been illegal and unauthorized access to some of your customer account information on Zappos.com, including one or more of the following: your name, e-mail address, billing and shipping addresses, phone number, the last four digits of your credit card number (the standard information you find on receipts), and/or your cryptographically scrambled password (but not your actual password).

Scary stuff. Now hackers can use a network of computers to crack these passwords and try to login to my other accounts (like Gmail, Facebook, or worse) using the same password.

However, there are ways we can protect ourselves.

First, do not use the same password for every account you use. If one password is compromised, then every account using that password will be compromised. To prevent this, create unique passwords for your accounts. Don’t worry. You don’t have to remember hundreds of passwords. Just invent a pattern for creating passwords that is based on the account you are entering.

Here is an example.

Example Pattern: 56$$-FooD-$$65
(Food = the first four letters of a food that relates to the account I’m entering)

Example password: 56$$-OraN-$$65
(This might be my password for Yahoo. Since Yahoo ends in “o” I chose the first four letters of a food that starts with “o” to take the place of FooD)

Another example password: 56$$-EggP-$$65
(This might be my password for Google. Google ends in “e” and “e” is for eggplant.)

The trick is to make a pattern that is personal to only you.

The second thing you can do is use a strong password. I suggest using a password that is easy to remember but hard for a computer (even a supercomputer) to crack. Consider creating passwords using a password haystack. Please take a few minutes to watch this video to see how (and why) to use password haystacks. Then visit this site to create your first haystack.

People create programs to hack our accounts for a reason. There is money to made from stolen information. This has happen before and it will happen again. Be safe now. Fix your passwords today.

Bot or Not: Are you human?

Okay, here’s the problem— bots. Bots are little programs created to crawl all over the Internet looking for ways to cause trouble. Often they’re made to help spammers do their dirty work. Bots will create accounts and pretend that they are real people. They might signup for online email accounts or leave comments on a blog.

Because of bots, websites need a way to verify that only humans are signing up for their services. They need to ask a question that humans can answer but computers cannot. Enter the CAPTCHA. CAPTCHAs are those squiggly letters you’re asked to enter when you signup for things online. Here is an example:


A recent estimate suggests that 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans each day— that’s a lot of reading and typing! The folks at reCAPTCHA have decided to put all that human power to work. Using their service, you enter words taken from books that have been scanned in but couldn’t be converted by a computer. The system turns both words into CAPTCHAs for you to solve. It knows the answer for one of the words but not the other. Since humans can read better than computers, you’re actually helping to digitize books and preventing spam.


You can help the book digitizing effort by adding reCAPTCHA to your site. You can use it to protect your email or your blog’s comments section; reCAPTCHA makes implementation easy.

Hear more about reCAPTCHA on a podcast from the Museum of Science in Boston.

Hear an in-depth discussion about CAPTCHAs on Security Now—a podcast by security expert Steve Gibson. (Episode 101- the discussion starts at 33:47)

Passwords matter. Give them some thought.

Before you take off for the summer, take a moment to write down your passwords for things like eSembler, Chancery and etc.

If the idea of writing down a password conjures up scenes from Wargames and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, don’t worry—it’s really not a bad idea.

It is better than choosing a poor password. The Dalebert comic (below) is not too far from the truth. Here is a recent list of the 10 most common passwords:

  1. passwordspassword
  2. 123456
  3. qwerty
  4. abc123
  5. letmein
  6. monkey
  7. myspace1
  8. password1
  9. link182
  10. (your first name)


Security guru Bruce Schneier writes:

People can no longer remember passwords good enough to reliably defend against dictionary attacks, and are much more secure if they choose a password too complicated to remember and then write it down… writing down your impossible-to-memorize password is more secure than making your password easy to memorize.

He’s not alone. Microsoft’s Jesper Johansson made the same suggestion.

Another suggestion that I like comes from security expert Steve Gibson. During his podcast Security Now, Steve explains:

Most people have never taken some time to create their own policy, their own personal password policy. They’re on the web, they’re doing something, and suddenly something says, okay, give me a password, create a password. And so, you know, they think of – they just do the first thing that comes to mind, whatever that might be. And so I wanted to take some time to discuss the issue of passwords and cause our listeners to sort of say, okay, wait a minute, this is an important thing. I’m going to, you know, take five minutes and figure out what I want to do about this, rather than continuing not to think about it and not to think that it’s important. Because I think it arguably really is an important issue.

Steven suggests that you create a little algorithm that helps you create a new password for each place you log into.

…take every other letter from the domain name, or every third letter. Come up with a rule for capitalizing them. Swap some letters around. You know, just sort of make up your own algorithm – and you don’t share with anybody else, and don’t use anything that I’ve talked about on the show, of course – and use that to create a password. Maybe take the name and, like, mix in the year of your birth, alternating that with the letters.

Steve talks about passwords in Episodes 4 and 5 of Security Now. I used Audacity to splice together the good parts into one show. Give it a listen.

His site also provides:

When you think about all the important and private things that your passwords protect, you owe it to yourself to give passwords some thought.

State your name with ClaimID

Have you heard the story about the student who created a fake MySpace page of one of his teachers? How could you miss it? It seems like it is happening everywhere.

Maybe the folks at ClaimID can help. Their website states, “ClaimID is about letting you have some say in what search engines say about you.


ClaimID lets you take credit for the information that search engines associate with your name. It also lets you state what things are not about you. (learn more)

See an example.