Safe Surfing

Useful Web Links
Password Guidelines

Useful Web Links

Webopaedia – definitions for computer terminology

Protect Your PC (Microsoft)

Strong Passwords (Microsoft)

AdAware Personal, spyware/malware & adware removal

Spybot, spyware/malware & adware removal

Spyware Blaster, a protective program that will not get rid of any bad things you may already have on your PC, but will prevent new problems.

Norton AntiVirus/Firewall products

McAffee AntiVirus/Firewall products

AVG Anti-virus, Free edition

Symantec Security Response – Hoax Page

Snopes Urban Legends Reference Pages

Home Firewall Guide

ZoneAlarm, a free personal firewall program

Tech Support Alert -- great overall source of support and recommendations

Password Guidelines

Don’t use:

  • blank passwords
  • names or parts of names:  (spelled backwards or forward), yours, children, family, street, company, etc.
  • any combination of “password” with added numbers and/or letters
  • anything other users might be able to easily guess 
  • any consecutive list of numbers, letters or keyboard keys (such as querty)
  • any word that can be found in a dictionary in any language

Do use strong passwords – at least eight characters, including a combination of letters, numbers and symbols that will be easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess.

Consider using strong passphrases.  A passphrase is a sentence you can remember.  You can use the first letter of each word in the sentence to create a password and then replace some of the letters with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters.  If you choose a very familiar passphrase, be sure to change it enough to make it hard to guess.

Consider taking simple passwords and adding complexity to them in ways that will help you to remember what they are.  For instance, take a word you will remember and change one or more letters within the word to a number or special character, exchanging the letter for a character that is similar in appearance ($ or & for S, 6 for b, 1 for L or I, etc.).  Be aware that some software programs, web sites or operating systems have specific rules about how passwords can be constructed. Try to put the numbers or special characters inside the password, rather than on the beginning or end to make them harder to guess.

Use different usernames and passwords for access to anything financial or confidential.  If you use the same username and password for all your various online accounts, a hacker might be able to access all of your online accounts

Keep your passwords secret.  Don’t share them and don’t write your password down and stick it under your keyboard or tape it to your monitor, for obvious reasons.  Don’t e-mail your username and password in the same message.

Consider changing your passwords every couple of months, particularly those used for access to financial data.

Manage your passwords. Consider creating several strong passwords for use with financial accounts and a short list of easier to remember passwords for accounts where security is less critical.  Consider creating a list of usernames, passwords, login addresses and any relevant notes and save them to a file with an ambiguous name.  DON’T save the file on your computer or leave it in an easy to access spot at home, such as next to your computer.  Store it on a floppy disk and label it with something no one would ever guess is related to passwords or have an interest in looking at, such as “annual reports” or “veterinary files.”  You can do this in a word processing file or a simple Excel spreadsheet.

If you think you may have to share your password with someone else, use one you haven’t used for a lot of other accounts or change your password first and then change it again after the other person has had access to it.

Monitor your online accounts and online or printed statements, especially for financial institutions.   If you have any reason to believe your privacy or security has been compromised, take immediate action to change your passwords, notify any financial institutions or other appropriate authorities.  Consider reviewing your credit report annually.

Last updated: September 12, 2014