Securing your digital self

This entry is a bit of a diversion from gaming, but I wanted to write about the importance of internet security, and also wanted to alert people to the way things are moving in favor of hackers these days.  Initially I want to point out a few articles – the first of which was fairly prominent in the news during the summer and the rest which are just good technical articles on how evolved and trivial password cracking has become in the last few years.

The first article is the one about Mat Honan’s hacking due to terrible security procedures at Apple and Amazon.  I feel that the fact that Apple gave away the keys to his digital kingdom because someone could produce the last four digits of a credit card number is purely outrageous.  The last four digits are essentially public information and appear on websites, in emails, and on receipts etc.  To think Apple resets passwords because someone calls them with this info is insane to say the least!

The second article that got my attention was the ArsTechnica one on the current state of password cracking. This one is more technically interesting and just plain frightening as most passwords everyone uses are easily cracked in minutes or hours if a database of hash-codes is obtained, which seems to be very common these days.  Just look at LinkedIn’s leaked password debacle this year.  Also, a more recent related article about using a 25 GPU cluster in cracking passwords is also very interesting.

So this brings me to the point of this entry, which is to tell you what I have done recently to improve my security.  The first thing I did was get rid of Apple and switched to my Gmail account only and turned on two step verification.  In addition to this I removed any cross linking of emails for resetting passwords in favor of messages to my phone and also removed all security questions everywhere possible.  I can only do password resets via my Gmail account and my phone now.  The second thing I did was to start using a password manager called LastPass to deal with the mountain of passwords used across the internet – most importantly making them all unique, random, and long.

Overall I have found that Gmail is much better than the iCloud email anyway and the rest of the sticky Google world is much more appealing to the technical person over Apple’s offerings.  I also found that Google Play is really cool and has a killer app for music – freely upload 20GB worth of your music and play it anywhere.  I got this working in 10 minutes compared to the nightmare that is iTunes, which I refuse to ever open again after Apple moved to OTA updates.  The Google world has a lot of pluses in my mind also.  The integrated Calendar with Tasks, and Hangouts now within Google Talk and via Google+.  Also you have complete online office tools and the ability to share everything to your Contacts etc. via Google Drive.  There are also many, many, other tools like Blogger, Sites. etc. that are all being integrated together.  This whole system put together makes a great collaboration tool overall and Google is going in the right direction for the idea of the ‘Cloud’.

In closing, I will pass along another article on the importance of good passwords.  Good luck with improving your own digital security.

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