Passwords and the digital world
Passwords in today’s digital world are the most common way to prevent unauthorised access to your personal information. But just having one does not mean you are safe from unauthorised access.
Passwords require complexity to be secure. To put it in perspective, hackers can employ cracking tools that can try 223 000 passwords per second! Their database can contain as many as 14.3 million words. This makes for a very effective way in gaining access to your digital information.
We’ll also need to put things in perspective just in case you felt hopeless. For a hacker to run their password cracking tools they will first need to get access to the password database of a website that stores your account details. For example, they would need to first hack into Facebook and steal the password databases, which in itself could be very hard. Then there’s also other ways of trying to guess your password, which I won’t cover here.
With all that said here are some ways you can protect yourself:
- Don’t use words that exist in a dictionary. As a very minimum you should not use any words in the dictionary as your full password. Just adding a number or two to that word also won’t suffice.
- Aim for long complex passwords. 15 or more characters. Some cracking tools have cracked 55-charter long passwords. Think of a phrase only you know and add or swap letters with numbers and characters.
- Try and use different passwords for different types of accounts. One for social media and a different one for finances.
- Change it every few months. At least twice a year. This way hackers have a smaller chance to use an old cracked password database to access your current account.
Test how long it will take to hack your password. Intel has a website where you can enter a password which you think would be secure (DON’T enter your own) and they will estimate how long it will take to crack it. Remember this is only an estimate, but will give you a good idea of what a secure one should look like.
Any comments welcome.
Last week Apple released its new iPhone 5. From what I have read it lacks killer features, but still impresses.
I’ll briefly outline what’s new and different compared to the iPhone 4S.
It’s 8.6mm taller, 1.7mm thinner and weighs 28 grams lighter. The screen is also slightly larger than the iPhone 4S.
The A6 processor is apparently twice as fast and also provides twice as much graphics performance.
Marginal improvement on the the iPhone 4S, but still nothing to write home about.
The rear camera on the iPhone 4S is already pretty impressive with its 8 mega pixels and other enhancements. The iPhone 5 boasts the same rear camera, but has spacial noise reduction and a smart filter for better low-light performance and faster image capture. The front (FaceTime) camera now shoots 720P HD video.
Head phone jack
The head phone jack is now located on the bottom of the phone instead of on the top.
The iPhone5 does support 4G, but whether or not it will be compatible with the current 4G network I can’t comment.
My recommendations is that if you have an iPhone 3S, then by all means upgrade. If you own an iPhone 4S it might be hard justifying the upgrade. on the basis features. But then again, I have read that most purchasing decisions are made with the heart then the mind is used to justify the decision.
While I have not reviewed the Samsung Galaxy III, I have heard that it boasts more features than the iPhones.
Most of us have Java installed on our computers. Java is required by many websites in order to make them interactive. The last week has brought a number of vulnerabilities in the Java program that would allow hackers to gain control of your PC.
To protect yourself make sure your Java program is up-to-date. I’ve included a link here that you can click on, follow the instructions and you’ll be notified if you have the most recent version of Java If not, follow the instructions on the website to get it updated.
Check if your have the latest version of Java here:
A question I get asked regularly, and rightly so. If I’m worth my salt then I should be able to give you the right answer. Problem is that there are hundreds or different computer configurations and hundreds of types of users. So my answer usually turns into some more questions, which I have broken down into a few sections:
- What are you going to use it for?
- How much RAM?
- What processor?
- Playing games or using it for graphic intense programs
- Laptop or desktop?
- If laptop what size?
- Screen size
- Is an extended warranty worth it?
What are you going to use it for?
It’s usually the first question I ask. Are you going to use it for business, playing games or personal use. Knowing this will help you make a better deceision.
How much RAM?
At this point of writing I would recommend between 4 and 8GB of RAM. If your operating system is going to be 32bit then you wil be limited to a maximum of 4GB of RAM. Unless you superficially require a 32bit Windows operating system I would purchase a 64bit operating system. Virtually all PC systems are 64bit, so if you want to get the most of your hardware then purchase a 64bit operating system.
The only current processors I would recommend would be the Intel iCore processors. At the entry level is the i3 processor, followed by the mid-range i5 and ending in the top range, the i7. Where budget permits purchase an i7 processor, otherwise for general use the i5 has more than sufficient power. If you are on a real budget and you use your computer for light processing then the i3 will do.
Playing games or using it graphic intense programs?
If your computer is going to be used to play games or graphic intense programs like Auto CAD or video editing, then you should get a dedicated graphics card with 1GB or more of RAM.
Laptop or desktop?
If you are going to be mobile and need to have your computer with you, then obviously a laptop would be better. If you computer stays in one place then go for a desktop, you’ll get more bang for your buck and they are generally easier to get repaired compared to laptops.
If a laptop, what size?
The general rule of the smaller and powerful the laptop the more expensive it will be. Find one that would meets your requirements best.
In my view, bigger is better unless you constricted on space. For laptop generally the largest screen size you can get is 17″ but it will be a large heavy laptop. 13 to 15 inches are my personal choice for a laptop screen size.
Is an extended warranty worth it?
Based of my experience in IT for the last 9 years, I would highly recommend you get an extended warranty. The number of times I have seen user’s $1200 investment break soon after a year is gone has made me come to recommend them. Look at it this way; You spend around $1200 for a good laptop. For an extra $150 you can protect your investment for another 2 years. Sounds wort it to me. If it does break out of warranrty you could easily pay more than 3 times your warranty purchase price.
I hope this has given you some good advise on your next computer purchase. And remember, if in doubt it’s always a good idea to ask a techie not a sales person for advise on what to buy.
Get the $55 consult fee waived
If you are in the market for a new laptop or desktop and want someone technical to help you decide what computer setup is best for you, then you can use our technical expertise. For $55 we will help you chose the best configuration for your needs. If you do buy the computer from us we will waive this fee. Call us on (02) 8188 9777. Consultation is done over the phone.
Every month Microsoft releases security patches to fix known security holes in it’s products. This month Microsoft released six new security bulletins, far less than the usual amount. But, one of these six security bulletins (MS12-020) describes a dangerous flaw in the Remote Desktop protocol (RDP). Security experts say you can’t patch fast enough!
Remote Desktop is a commonly used feature that allows users to remotely access their computers and servers. All operating systems (including Windows XP, 7, Server 2003, Server 2008, etc.) are affected if RDP has been enabled on that system.
If you are a home user ensure that you have all the latest security updates from Microsoft installed. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that Automatic Windows updates are enabled. If you have a company network with servers and workstations, patching might not be enabled automatically for whatever reason, so ensure your system do get patched appropriately.
Here’s some additional commentary to underscore the urgency of the MS12-020 security bulletin. Andrew Storms, Director of Security Operations for nCircle, says “It’s a ‘red alert’ day for IT security–many enterprise systems just became vulnerable to a serious worm attack vector,” adding, “This is also a very serious security issue for the millions of servers residing in public clouds because user-enabled RDP is likely to be the method for access.”
If you are on elscomm’s ReliableIT Managed Service you do not need to worry as we have already ensured that your systems are patched and you are protected against this vulnerability.
If you are uncertain that you are protected, then don’t waste valuable time, get in contact with us today. 02 8188 9777 or 0402 936 861
We have received a security advisory from our email hosting partner identifying a new spam campaign that masquerades as a shipping notification from DHL. Currently, none of the major anti-virus providers are capable of catching and quarantining this message. As such, this scam has the potential to be successful and can have serious consequences.
We recommend that you take the following action:
- Notify all your email users about this threat
- Caution your users not to open any attachments from DHL or any unknown sender
- Be aware that this is a rapidly-changing virus. Even if your anti-virus provider lists it as covered, you may still be at risk. We will update our clients when we feel this is no longer a threat.
More information about this threat:
The messages have their “From” field spoofed to appear as originating from an DHL email address. The subject is “DHL Tracking Number ########” (where # stands for a random letter or digit) and unlike most spam, the content of these emails is relatively well-spelled.
The message, signed by DHL Delivery Services, reads: “Hello! The courier company was not able to deliver your parcel by your address. You may pickup the parcel at our post office personally. The shipping label is attached to this email. Please print this label to get this package at our post office.
The attached archives are called DHL_INVOICE23.zip and contain a trojan installer. “The file in the ZIP archive uses a double file extension in the form of DHL_INVOICE_23.xls______________<plenty of underscores>______.exe,” the Avira researchers explain. This naming scheme as well as the file Excel document icon, have the purpose of deceiving the users into believing that they are actually opening a document.
The series of underscores pushes the .exe extension out of the view when the archive file is opened in an unpacking program. At the same time the .exe part will not be visible in Windows Explorer either, since file extensions are hidden by default.
I’ve been on-site this week at one of our clients who runs a physiotherapy practice. While I was there I noticed one of their newsletters talking about computer tips, which instantly gradbed my attention.
Thanks to Martin and Heidi from Doyles’ Physio Therapy in Pyrmont (http://www.doylesphysio.com/), who has given permission to copy these tips into our computer tips email.
- Sit in a good quality, adjustable chair. Pull your chair close to your desk, adjust the seat height so your elbows hips and knees are at 90 degrees. Forearms should be parallel or sloping down the desktop and feet should be on the floor.
- Adjust your chair’s back support, so it is in the lower part of your back near your hips. It should gently tilt your pelvis forward.
- Have the screen straight in front of you at arm’s length away.
- Ensure your screen is easy to see. Make sure there are no light sources behind it, and tilt the screen to eliminate reflections.
- Don’t use a laptop for extended periods. If you must plug in a full sized keyboard and mouse.
- Limit continuous computer use. Take breaks every 30 minutes and do neck and shoulder stretches – shoulder rolls are great! Focus on a distant point to give your eyes a break. Get up and walk around hourly.
- Take notice of early warnings. If you feel and ache or discomfort in any part of your body, check your posture, take a break and if the problem persists see a physiotherapist.
Cheers until next week!
If you are running Windows 7 and have a whole bunch of windows open, you can quickly minimize all bar the one you want to work on. Watch this video to find out how.
For those of you who want to extra protection on your Facebook account you can now configure this in the Account Settings section of your Facebook account. It allows you to keep track of locations and computers your Facebook account is being accessed from.
Once you turn on Login Notifications, the next time you log into your Facebook account you will be asked to add this computer to the list of trusted computers to login from.
So, now when you get an email notification that a new computer has been added and you know you did not add this computer yourself you can then login to Facebook and quickly change your password to prevent unauthorized access. Remember to use a complex password as an account with a weak password is easily broken into.