Create and Manage Secure Passwords

Create and Manage Secure Passwords

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

As the key to the proverbial kingdom with regards to protecting your family’s custom safety restrictions and personal information online, the importance of passwords can’t be overstated. The damage done should they fall in the wrong hands can take weeks or even years to potentially repair.

With online services requiring more and more strength requirements and even periodic changing of passwords, every househould have a clear password policy in place, and should institute individualized passcodes to protect all safety settings, personal accounts and parental controls configurations. Here are favorite tips for managing and creating passwords.

Creating Passwords – Here are some basic tips, courtesy of our friends at eBay, who recommend as follows: 

  • Don’t use personal information that others can easily obtain or guess (example: your name, phone number, or birth date). 
  • The longer and more complex your password is, the harder it will be to guess. 
  • Create a password that’s secure, but still easy for you to remember. To help you remember your password, consider using a phrase or song title as your password. For example, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” can become “Sw0tR8nBo.” 
  • After creating your password, protect it. Don’t share your password with others. 
  • Don’t use the same password for your other online accounts, such as email, bank, and social networking accounts.

Common Sense Media points out that it can actually be fun to develop really good passwords, especially if you’re converting phrases that are hard to guess for others, but easy for your family to remember, into a mixture of letters and numbers. In the end, a good password should be at least 8 characters in length; involve a variety of numerals, letters and/or punctuation marks; and not be a word found in your average, everyday dictionary. Many computer programs that hackers use can easily be configured to search for common terms in a variety of forms, including textual (e.g. “ModernParents”) and numeric (i.e. “M0dernP4rents”).

Keep a Password Log Experts are split on the best way to keep password logs. Although some experts say real-world versions are unreliable, it often makes more sense to keep such lists as separate from the computer as possible. The downside here is that if you misplace or lose this list you could be giving someone easy access to all of your online accounts, so if you do decide to do this, keep it safe and secret. Likewise, should you choose to store a master list somewhere on your computer – never advised – it should be encrypted and password-protected itself. Ultimately, one thing everyone can agree on though is that you must take simple steps to make your passwords impossible for hackers to guess.

Know Your Kids’ Passwords – While you absolutely should be aware of kids’ passwords when they first dabble in the online world, you may wish to treat this practice like training wheels, and relax or remove it from your household policies as children get older and become more responsible technology users. Should you request access to children’s passcodes though, be sure to remind them that the reason you need this information isn’t to spy on them or tarnish their online image – rather, to simply monitor and keep them safe.  One tip for families who don’t choose to freely share passwords is to set up a regular time with children to access kids’ accounts so you can monitor privacy filters and change settings.

Log Out Of Accounts – Guarding passwords is useless if you stay logged in.  Remembering to log out of active accounts when finished using them is just as important as not sharing your password – especially on public computers or networks. If you or your kids leave their Facebook account open on a computer and someone else accesses their profile, the results can range from a harmless spoofed status update to a serious breach of privacy and even potential identity theft.

10 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy

10 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

We recently read an estimate that every month, Internet users worldwide spend the equivalent of nearly 4 million years online. US users are at the forefront, with the average American spending 32 hours online every month, or more than an hour every day.

And at the top of many of these users concerns about their time line is a worry about a lack of privacy and sharing of personal information.  Many are fearful of companies like Google or Facebook compiling and selling their data.  Concerns like Identity Theft and Reputation Management are legitimate scares that could come from sharing too much or the wrong kind of information online.

So for kids, parents and grandparents looking for tips to help manage their online footprint, here are 10 ways to protect your online privacy.

Take Charge – Don’t assume privacy settings are automatically configured the way you’d like them to be.  In fact, you should assume that default settings are probably wrong for you.  Take the time to configure any social network, e-mail or other accounts to make sure you understand who can see the information you share.

Use The Tools You Are Given – Computers, web browsers and even search engines all have some degree of privacy protection functionality built-in, many under the heading of “Parental Controls.”  Activate SafeSearch on Google, use Private Browing on your cell phone, and regulate site access and cookies on Internet Explorer 9. 

Create a Password Policy – Come up with a system for generating and remembering password, whether it’s through an encrypted service such as offered by Norton, or a real-life document and log of all your site passwords.  Be creative and unique with passwords, such as creating a phrase like “We Spent Our Honeymoon in Hawaii” and turning it into WS0H1H.

Don’t Use Indentifying Information – If you’re trying to stay as anonymous as possible on the Internet, it obviously helps if you don’t provide things like, say, your street address or name of your kids’ school. The only way you can ensure information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is not to share it at all.

Turn Off Geolocation Services – With GPS’ built into nearly every portable device, it’s easy to unwillingly provide the exact location of a picture or status update.  Turn off geolocation services on your smart phone and within each sharing service to ensure that location information isn’t being shared, even if only in the data of your pictures.

Use Nicknames for Family & Friends – Want to share information about loved ones but maintain a level of privacy?  Come up with nicknames for your kids or spouses, like “The Beastie Boy” or “Buddy.” Your friends will know who you’re talking about, and you won’t be unwittingly giving that info away.

Use Separate E-mail Accounts – When setting up services, don’t use your primary e-mail account for signing up or providing notifications. Often, these can and will be used and sold.  Instead, create a social network e-mail account, or one used for making online purchases, while keeping the one you use to stay in touch with everyone completely out of the equation.

Google Yourself Regularly – You may as well see what’s posted online about you, because other people certainly will.  From prospective employers to potential romantic interests, everyone Googles everyone else these days, and the best way to make sure you’re on top of the information out there is to know what’s there.

Be Leery of Public Wi-Fi – Logging on to the network at the library or McDonald’s may be convenient and save your data plan, but you need to alter your browsing habits when there and make sure you’re not visiting any sites asking with personal or sensitive info.

Respect Others’ Privacy  – As hard as you work to maintain your own low online profile, it can all be undone without the help of others. So don’t be the one that exposes information about your friends that they’re trying to control. Follow the golden rule online and treat their privacy as you’d like to have yours.

Make Social Networks Safe for Kids

Make Social Networks Safe for Kids

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

According to Norton Online Safety expert Marian Merritt, more parents are concerned that their kids will give out too much personal information online than are concerned about their kids interacting with inappropriate people or being exposed to indecent information.

And certainly sharing over social networks is one way where kids are prone to overshare.

Although many experts are critical of the way they do it, Facebook has in fact taken many steps to allow users at least some semblance of control over the information that users share online.  In fact, Facebook even adds extra default privacy settings on accounts for kids under the age of 18.

Obviously, the first step in keeping any information private is not to share it in the first place.  But if you’re dealing with a social network, there’s a certain “quid pro quo” expectation that everyone who’s linked together will participate in some sort of exchange of information. 

There are steps for how to make Facebook and other social networks safer for children.

Control The Audience

You may not realize it, but you can control who can see your status updates, photos, check-ins and other information when you post. This is a key feature of Google Plus, but a lesser-known option on sites like Facebook.   There’s an option within every post to allow you to select, and within each network’s Privacy Settings menu, you can set your default settings for each of the different updates to be seen by friends, the public, or only me.   This is the most basic Privacy setting, and one to which most are already attuned to.

Manage Connections

You can control your settings for how you can be found, who is allowed to send you friend requests and who can send you messages.  Decide if you want everyone to do these actions, or just limit them to friends of friends.  In the case of receiving messages, many also limit that to just friends as well. 

Keep Control Away From Others – Facebook and Google Plus allow you to control whether or not others can post on your wall, tag you on photos, or mention you in their post and have it appear on your profile. 

Unless you’re a public figure, it’s usually fine to let others post on your wall, as the friends in your network are not likely to post something inappropriate (after all, you did carefully manage your connections, right?). But if you’re nervous about that happening, simply use privacy settings to not allow others to post on your wall, and the only time anyone might complain about is on your birthday.

To prevent your child from appearing in photos posted by others, make sure to restrict the ability for others to tag them in photos or check-ins.  There’s also an option to allow this, but only after you’ve approved it.

Many social network sites these days use facial recognition software, and you can control whether or not to allow the social network to suggest tagging you if they do upload a picture of you.

Limit Third Party Access to Information

According to the Facebook’s Privacy Settings page, “your name, profile picture, gender, networks, username and user id are always publicly available, including to Apps.”  The reason for this, the company says, is to make this information more social.

Beyond that, you can control how all of your kids’ information is shared with these third parties, which is extremely important because they are separate entities that have different privacy policies than Facebook.  It’s important you regulate what information can be shared, such as your bio, birthday, photos, status updates – pretty much anything you’ve updated on Facebook.  If you don’t want apps and websites to access these, make sure to use privacy settings to disable them.  You can even disable the use of games and apps entirely on social networks, which isn’t a bad idea.  The only drawback then is you can’t use any yourself, but surprisingly that is not that difficult for most.

Blocking Other Users

If someone is harassing you or you don’t want to be connected to them for some other reason, you can block a user, and you will no longer be visible to each other.  By doing this, you break all ties with them, and both users will no longer be able to see each other’s profile or appear in any search results.  This is a little more difficult to do, but can be done via privacy settings or through a link at the bottom of each profile.