From the chair I sit in, I routinely observe evidence of malicious computer hacking and cyber crime.  What was once unheard of is now fairly common, and stands only to become worse.  One of the most recent big data breaches occurred at Adobe where 3 million customers had their information stolen.  The fallout from this unfortunate event is only starting, but will most likely lead to negative consequences for many people.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Recently, Fred Langa, of Windows Secrets Newsletter, wrote an excellent article on what to do if you discover that you are the victim of cyber crime.  Most importantly, he describes the steps to take to help prevent such a disastrous event.  Most data breaches of this nature are so dangerous because many people use the same login and password for many (or all!) of their online accounts. If one is stolen, the thief knows how to access all of those accounts. No one can be expected to remember every account password, so several methods have been developed over the past several years to help:

1. Let your browser remember the passwords for non-critical web sites where banking information such as credit card numbers are not requested or saved.  Your password is saved on your PC in an encrypted form and is relatively safe. The next time you visit the site, the browser fills in the password for you.

2. Use a password manager. This is a stand-alone program that lets you store all your passwords, and provides the capability of generating new, highly secure passwords for you. These run on most every platform, including Android, iOS, Mac and Windows. This would be the choice for banking, credit card, and shopping sites that often request financial information.  The Windows Secrets article lists several programs and provides more detail about how they work. Personally, I use KeePass on my Windows PC and Android Smartphone. It’s free and works great for the several hundred passwords I need to know.

With these new ways to avoid using the same password for every website you visit (without having to remember them all!), change them all to unique, hard to crack passwords and make a significant reduction to your risk of falling victim to malicious hackers and cyber criminals.  It is our goal in the Information Technology Services Office to ensure that your home computer is as safe to use as the computers we provide to our students, faculty and staff.