Friday, October 16, 2015

Cybersecurity: Let's Talk About Passwords.

Did you know that October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month? For the last five years, we've been promoting Stop.Think.Connect.™ 

Has it worked?

What are some things that you've done differently in your everyday online activities? Do you have different passwords for different sites? Have you uploaded the latest malware protection on your computer? Have you become educated about the ways that cyber thieves can break into your computer and your phone, retrieving information that can hurt you financially? If you haven't done anything or feel like you haven't done enough, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) has some ideas for you. 

How can I keep my online accounts and data protected? 

Your best defense is a good offense.

Step 1.

Make your account and passwords STRONG! Pins too. Use alpha numeric and long, strong passwords. An 8 character password with upper, lower, numbers and symbols could take 16 minutes to crack.

For example, you often aren’t limited in length to make a password a sentence that only you can figure out. I like pan au chocolate with strong coffee becomes: Ilik3pan@chocolatew/strongc0ffe. Even if your password can’t be that long you can still use a passphrase to create a strong password. IL6@cwsC0yum is based on the same sentence and used the first letters of the words and substituted number and symbols for letters. At 12 mixed characters it is very strong. I Like 6an @u chocolate with strong Coffee yum.

There are excellent random password generators available if you want to use them and they do produce a truly random password.  Apps and sites include:

They all work perfectly well and many will be able to let you tweak the password to meet the parameters of the password you must create.  But, they all have one problem; used on their own you still have passwords that are hard to remember, so you might be tempted to write them down. Which you now know is a cardinal mistake. So what to do?

Get a password program or app. What you really need is a password app or program to safely store your passwords. As an added benefit, most good password apps let you organize and file your passwords, the site URL’s with the ability to link directly to the site, random password generators, and much more. Some password safes that reside on your computer or device can be turned on so that they capture your passwords and ID’s and you create them and automatically store them so you can retrieve them later. All you have to remember is the initial “Master Password.” Some of the best rated password keepers for 2015, according to PCMag are:

These all have costs that range from $12.00 to $39.99 but, all three have free version that will make password management much easier, even if the free versions don’t have all the bells and whistles of the premium ones have everything you need to get the job done.

Next, get educated about cybersecurity.

Step 2.

TEEX Cybersecurity offers a wide range of online and face-to-face cybersecurity training for everyone from first-time users to experienced IT professionals. And it costs you nothing because it's funded through FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Start with one of our Online for Everyone - Non-Technical (Cyber 101) courses like Information Security for Everyone. It's short and easy and is available 24/7.  

Next, visit the Stop.Think.Connect.™ website or contact They've got valuable tips and information you can use year-round

Let's stay Cybersecure all year long!

Catherine Gibson is a Training Coordinator for the TEEX Cybersecurity Program. A graduate of Texas A&M University, she has been active in adult education and IT security for 16 years.

NOTE: Currently, the TEEX Cyber Security Facebook Page is running a contest, so enter to win today! It ends on October 31, 2015.