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Usernames & Passwords: That old chestnut!

Usernames & Passwords: That old chestnut!

Usernames & Passwords: That old chestnut!

Happy New Year, and welcome to a new decade! I’m still here, and I hope you are too!

Living the digital world of 2020 means we’ve become accustomed to usernames and passwords. They are used in everything you do on-line; from Amazon to Tesco, BBC to email; in fact, it’s been estimated that we each have over 30 logins, and that number is on the rise. But why do we even need all these usernames and passwords in the 21st century?

Computer passwords are a modern-day adaptation of techniques soldiers have used since ancient times to verify who is approaching in the dark. “Who goes there; friend or foe?”. “It’s me, Jimmy”. “… and what’s your password”. “********”. “OK! You can come in from the dark”. The importance today is that you are protecting your whole persona against theft and misrepresentation. So, lets start at the beginning.

In most cases your username is your email address; some older websites force you to choose a name or word, but usually want your email address as well. It is therefore imperative that you should use a separate and very secure password for your email account as, once hacked, your email account can be used to reset passwords for just about everything else! I usually recommend at least 10 characters long and at least one each of uppercase, lowercase, number and symbol. It doesn’t have to be difficult to remember either … take your two first names (mine are James & William) … then mix it up a bit … 8illi@m>jAme5 … for instance. Avoid the commonest number symbol combination which is 9 & !.

After that you just need to consider the importance of each login and assign a suitable password to each. If you must write them down, then hide them somewhere sensible and not with your computer on a sticky note for the world to see. I tend to use permutations on a theme when choosing a new password for something … simple would be abcd1234 then Abcd1234 then Abcd1234! then DcAb4312! etc.

Then there is two-factor authentication (2FA). This is a second layer of security to protect an account or system. Users must go through two layers of security before being granted access and this is usually a password and PIN, or password and code supplied by text message. Highly recommended for peace of mind, but a bit of a faff sometimes. Finally, if asked to set-up memorable information, try to be a bit creative … Mothers maiden name = Bicycle; Favourite colour = Austin Allegro; First job = Yellow.

I’ve never seen the need to change a password unless you think it might have become compromised or if odd things start happening. Just make sure you keep that email password secure, and if you ever have to change your email address, then remember that you’ll have to change all your online accounts as well to match!

The choice as always, is yours, but if you think you need advice, you know where to come.

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Added: 2nd January 2020

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