Colwich Computer Club. 

Password Protection and Security.  

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There are many different aspects to security on your computer.

Firstly a lot of people don’t realise that by going into the control panel and selecting user accounts it is quite easy to set a password for people accessing your computer and limit who uses it by setting each user their own user accounts, ie: for other family members. You can also make files available to any user, or just for your own use, or at least you can with modern machines. Normal settings on most computers are already set to restrict access to and to hide system files, but they can be revealed if you really want to. If you do great care must be taken as accidental alterations can crash your system. However, it is occasionally necessary to reveal these files for certain functions.

If you do set a password for access, and you will use many passwords in your use of a computer, great care must be used in how you record/remember them. Everyone says that you should never write them down and you should use different passwords for different things. In practice, however, especially for those of us with a poor memory, this is just not feasible, but one golden rule is DON’T save them in text files on your computer. This also goes for specific bank account details such as account numbers etc. Frequently, after being asked for a password the computer will ask you if you want it to remember it for use next time. Tick the yes box, because this will save you from having to re-enter it again in similar circumstances. If you did get bugged, with one of the keyboard key recording Trojans, it would not get the password as you would not be re-entering it.

The “Strength” of a password is important. This basically refers to the complexity and difficulty of anyone guessing it by chance. Very often when creating a new password for something the computer will give an indication of its strength and advise mixing numbers with letters for added “Strength.” Also it may say it is case sensitive so that capitals can be mixed in.

Here follows a little joke about Irish Password Protection!

During a recent PASSWORD AUDIT at the Bank Of Ireland it was found that Paddy O'Toole was using the following password;-
"MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofyDublin."
When Paddy was asked why he had such a long password, he replied;-
"Bejazus! are yez blinkin' stupid? Shore Oi was told me password had to be at least 8 characters long and include one capital."

In the old days it was easy to set up a password which was automatically asked for with an Internet connection on Dial Up, however, for Broadband it can be a lot more complicated and should involve using a “Firewall” as well. This will prevent anybody from can gaining access through nearby connection, possibly from a neighbour, or even someone with a Lap Top in a car out in the street. Messages can also be encrypted these days for added security. Broadband is on contract and so most people usually leave it on making security even more important.

An anti virus program on your computer is extremely important these days and there are many free ones available on the net. However, I am of the opinion that you get what you pay for and if you don’t pay for it do you get anything worth having? There are many good shop sold ones that do not cost the earth and definitely are genuine. You will certainly get a free trial one with your computer/Broadband supplier and certain free computer protection from Microsoft, but a full security program should be installed as well.

E-mails are one of the commonest source of computer problems whether they are Viruses, Trojans, or Worms. Very often they arrive on unsolicited E-mails containing jokes and are usually embedded in the pictures, or in the attachments. Never open an E-mail or attachment that doesn’t have a “Subject,” or any other E-mail where you don’t recognise the sender’s name. This especially means dodgy bank requests, or any one of many other dodgy financial E-mails, such as those saying “You have won…. Etc,” or “So and so wants you to broker some deal for them for a high commission fee for you.”

If you have E-mail security installed a red warning symbol will appear on some E-mails and the very worst may even be sanitised /partially deleted, to prevent infection of your computer. Spam filters will remove much junk E-mail as well as some dodgy ones, but always beware of any E-mail links as well on your mail. Most will be genuine links even on Spam, but others will not and it is not worth taking the risk. The name of the company will be on the E-mail, so if you want to follow it up go to a search engine such as Yahoo or Google and you will easily find the company.

Dodgy web-sites are another great source of infection and a little thought before clicking will prevent almost all casual infractions. Most web-sites start with a www and are safe, but most dodgy web sites start without these three letters. That doesn’t mean this is true of all sites. Many official program downloads sites/pages, etc for Microsoft and the like don’t begin with www. Some genuine free web-sites such as my own sites, including this site for the Computer Club, don’t start www.

Misspelled site name requests on a search engine will very often throw up dodgy sites that can often be spotted as the site name or web address is also misspelled from the genuine site’s. However, word recognition will still often give genuine answers to such misspelled requests and usually prompt you with another spelling.

If you do find that your computer is infected it may not be necessary for a trip to the repair shop as you may be able to correct things yourself. When a computer installs a new program/update it nearly always installs a “Restore Point,” so that after a bad download or visit to a dodgy web-site, you can restore the computer to older settings before it was corrupted. This doesn’t always work and is not something to be tried lightly, but can save both money and problems if done with care. To “Restore” to earlier settings go to Accessories, System Tools, System Restore and very carefully follow the instructions.