Thursday, January 31, 2013

90% of User Created Passwords at Risk of being Hacked

Passwords can be tricky and we try to make it easy because there are just too many to remember. But what are the risks of having an easy to remember password?

If you have gotten an e-mail from someone that looked suspicious or crazy and they said they didn't send is because their e-mail got hacked. The solution is to change the password.

There is a downside to having an easy to remember password and the downside can be troublesome. Here are the top 25 most common passwords of 2012. And get this...the #1 is a repeat from 2011. If any of your passwords are on this list, you are most certainly in the 90% and at risk.

SplashData reports these top 25 most commonly used passwords.
1. password (Unchanged)
2, 123456 (Unchanged)
3. 12345678 (Unchanged)
4. abc123 (Up 1)
5. qwerty (Down 1)
6. monkey (Unchanged)
7. letmein (Up 1)
8. dragon (Up 2)
9. 111111 (Up 3)
10. baseball (Up 1)
11. iloveyou (Up 2)
12. trustno1 (Down 3)
13. 1234567 (Down 6)
14. sunshine (Up 1)
15. master (Down 1)
16. 123123 (Up 4)
17. welcome (New)
18. shadow (Up 1)
19. ashley (Down 3)
20. football (Up 5)
21. jesus (New)
22. michael (Up 2)
23. ninja (New)
24. mustang (New)
25. password1 (New)
Source: Splashdata

Business Insider Reports by Mark Warman, The Telegraph, January 15, 2013.

Global consulting firm Deloitte released a report recently with an alarming prediction: More than 90 percent of user-generated passwords will be vulnerable to hacking. The report, prepared by Deloitte’s Canadian Technology, Media & Telecommunications arm, said even those passwords traditionally considered strong — with eight characters and a combination of numbers, letters and symbols — are at risk.

We need to be able to remember our passwords right? Passwords are frequently the only thing protecting our valued information from prying eyes.

Here are 10 Rules for creating a hacker-resistant password. In summary, we should:

  • Avoid using dictionary words.
  • Do not use personal information in your password
  • Use special characters, upper and lower case and numbers in your passwords
  • Longer passwords are better than shorter ones
  • Use different passwords for different types of accounts. Financial Institutions, social media, e-mail, web-sites, purchasing accounts on web-sites and software applications.
  • Write passwords down or using a password manager to remember them.

But the fact still remains that we seniors or computer novices need to be able to remember our passwords first and foremost.

Here is a website password generator that helps you create short or very long and very strong passwords.
Let me show you a few simple schemes to change your current, easy to remember password to a strong one but still easy to remember.

Exchange a letter for a number. Example:
l or I = 1, e = 3, h = 4, b = 6, t = 7, p = 9, o = 0

Use special characters in a way that is easy to remember. Special characters are @, #, $, %, &, *, +, -. Like the above, replace a letter or a number with a special character. Example: a = @, s = $, 8 = &.

Following these schemes, let's see how a simple word can evolve to a strong password but still easy enough to remember.





See how we've used a combination of upper and lower case, numbers and special characters but still pretty easy to remember.

Good passwords can be a combination of words. However, dictionary words should be avoided as they are easier to crack. Try putting underscores between words or using some of the schemes above. Here is another view of how a phrase can evolve to become a very strong password.

main street gym




When one passes away there are many online accounts heirs will need to get in to. Make sure your passwords can be obtained by them. Keep a list somewhere or instructions to your password manager.

Speaking of a password manager. A password manager is a good tool to use to remember your user names and passwords. Sure, you could use a Word or Excel document but those are not very strong. I've been using the same password manager for over 10 years although it has evolved. It is eWallet Go by iLium Software. You enter your own password or let eWallet Go create a strong one. eWallet Go is $4.95 and available for all devices. I have it on my iPad, Android smart phone and Windows PC. There are many that are free and some quite expense.

There are 3 basic types of password managers.

Source: PC Magazine
  1. One that simply holds usernames and passwords that you create. eWallet Go is an example of this type.
  2. Another is one that automatically places the username and password for you when a login screen presents itself. You call up the password manager, type its password and it places the appropriate username and password onto the screen. This type of password manager can reside right on your PC so you would need it for each of your devices.
  3. Probably the best password manager has the same features mentioned previously but resides on a secure site on the internet. This way, you can call up the password manager from any device or PC around the world.

Here is a very good review by Top Ten Reviews on some of the best password managers.

I like this review very much by Bonnie Cha of All Things D called Unlocking the Power of Password Managers. The review also has a short video showing the password managers in actions. NOTE: this video will not run on some tablets.
Ars Technica. Why passwords have never been weaker...and why hackers have never been stronger by Dan Goodin. August 2012
Lifehacker. Which password manager is the most secure? by Melanie Pinola. September 2012
PC Magazine. The Best Password Managers by Neil J. Rubenking. July 2012
Privacy Rights Clearing House. Online Privacy: Using the Internet Safely


If you liked or even disliked this article, please let me know by writing a comment. Also, please tell me if the article is too "techy", just right or too remedial. I really appreciate it.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Google Reader for News and Information

One of my most used and useful web sites is Google Reader. Google Reader is a web page customized with news articles just for me.

I choose the topics and Google Reader delivers the articles, blog posts, etc., right to my Google Reader web page the moment they are available. Kind of like an instant newspaper or magazine customized with the topics I want to read. All for FREE.

I still love to read if I can get a large text and with Google Reader I can do that. I read a variety of topics including hard news, sports, NASCAR, teal estate and technology.  When news hits, I get it in Google Reader. Google Reader updates, continuously, throughout the day. I get over 250 articles a day in the topics I am interested. I don't read all of them but I know they are within topics I have an interest.

Google Reader is a news consolidator and called an RSS reader. RSS stands for really simple syndication. It is a technology that allows a program to search the web and gather your specific articles in an amazingly fast and organized way.
I no longer surf the web, as we used to say, looking for articles of interest. I was save Bookmarks and favorites so I could go sites one by one to see what was new.  No more. Google Reader does this for me.
Here are the steps:
  1. Create a Google Account
  2. Login to your Google Account
  3. Choose Reader from the black bar (touch More, then Reader)
  4. Sign in
  5. Choose Subscribe
  6. Search for and subscribe to topics
There is bevy of apps that add their own features and comforts on top of Google Reader. That is, they have a nice exterior while using my Google Reader page to bring it's information. Many of these apps are FREE while some have a modest cost. I use the default Google Reader page in my browser as well as the default Google Reader app on my Android smart phone. I pay for Feeddler RSS Reader for my iPad as it has capability to increase text size for the headlines as well as the article content. Feeddler RSS Reader is FREE and there is a Pro version for $4.99. The Pro version has over 10 additional features. 
Below are screen shots of Google Reader and Feeddler. Notice the large text because of my vision disability.
Google Reader in a Chrome browser
Google Reader for Android
Feeddler RSS Reader for iPad

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Use Google Street View

Google Street View is a feature of Google Maps on the web. Literally it is a 360 degree photo taken from a vehicle while going down streets. Google has a fleet of vehicles traveling the US and the world taking 360 degree pictures from a fancy, roof-top mounted camera(see photo below), every few seconds and making it part of their maps. Google Street View can be found on using any browser.

Google's fleet of vehicles is working to cover highways, bi-ways and streets around the world. Here is how Google does this. I found an interesting article by Leslie Larson on Mail Online, October 13, 2012, entitled Secrets of a Google Street View Car Driver.

I won't be getting into any philosophical or privacy issues in this article. I simply want to show how Street View can be a terrific help when following Google Map directions. If you have concerns about privacy and what Google has been doing to mitigate those concerns, please read the articles on the subject at the bottom.

Here is how Street View can add value to directions. Many people use landmarks when remembering how to get somewhere. For example, turn left at the gas station, then right at the house with the blue roof. Maps are good, navigation systems also good, but landmarks add an additional level of comfort when trying to find a new place. Therefore, when using Google Maps and their directions, use Street View along the way to take in a few landmarks.

Street View is found on the Google Maps page by clicking on the "Peg Man" and dragging it to a place on the map. Then move yourself up and down the street, turning left or right to see where you plan to go. Here are detailed directions for using Google Street View.


Once in a Street View window you can turn by clicking on the picture and holding down on the mouse button, and then move to the left or right. Look around you as if you were there. Note your landmark and move to the next location on the map. The Street View photo could have been taken last week or even more than a year ago. No one really knows for sure.

Turn Right at the Chevron Station

Turn Left at the 7-Eleven

Once you have a few landmarks, you are all set to have a more comfortable and anxiety free journey to your destination. Give Street View a try.

I have heard from some folks who use Google Earth for the same effect. Google Earth pictures are from a satellite while Google Street View pictures are from the road.

Please share other ways you have discovered using Google Street View.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Perspective:Using Technology While Having a Vision Disability - Part 1

This is a series of articles showing how technology allows me to compensate for, or reduce the effects of my vision disability. I cannot do many things anymore but I can enjoy some of the smaller pleasures of life even though I am legally blind. 

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Evelyn O'Brien of Wilbraham says an iPad now allows her to see things she hasn't seen in decades.
22 News May 4, 2011.  iPad gives sight to legally blind woman. This article might sound to good to be true to most, but I am here to tell you this is exactly how I feel. Reading is a chore at best. However, if text is large enough and/or there is a significant contrast between background and text, reading is still possible. For example, the newspaper, with it's small text and off-white paper color is impossible to read without a powerful magnifying glass.
Here is where technology comes to the rescue. I can read books, the newspaper, news services and web pages on my tablet, smart phone or PC. Let's talk about books first. I use an Apple iPad and got the first generation version in April 2010, the day it was available because I immediately saw the value to me. The price was such a small price to pay if I could read e-mail, read a book or read the newspaper in casual surroundings and not sitting to a desk with my face stuck to the screen. Today, this capability is not limited to Apple's iPad as there are many tablets, e-readers and smart phones that have a back-lit screen to provide desirable contrast. There is significant choice of brand and price point too. I must note that I made the move to the latest iPad with Retina display. I can absolutely tell the difference and it helps me.

For books, I use Kindle software on my tablet. I switched to Kindle from another e-reader ecosystem because of it's Whisper Sync technology that allows page synchronization between devices--like a smart phone, tablet or PC. In other words, I can stop reading on the iPad and later pick up my smart phone and continue right where I left off. I then set the text size to be very large. If the words exceed the bounds of the blind spots, then I can read it adequately. Below are screen shots from a tablet and smart phone showing what most people see versus what I need see for text size. 
Kindle on tablet-default size
Kindle on tablet-what I need

Kindle on smart phone-default size
Kindle on smart phone-what I need

There is nothing more gratifying than being able to read most of what I want to read even with this vision handicap. Technology has done this for me and I am very thankful.



About my vision condition--
I have a rare retina disease called Retinal Pigment Epethelium Distropy (RPE Distrophy). In english, I have blind spots in my vision due to small circles in my retina that do not transmit to the brain via the optic nerve. The periphery is pretty good with glasses but things right in the middle of my vision, where important things need to be seen, are not good at all. As an example, I cannot see traffic lights as they disappear when I look right at them. I can only see the first letter "E" on the eye chart. There is no cure or treatment for this condition. Although RPE Distrophy is similar to Macular Degeneration, which is very common, especially with seniors, only 200,000 people have what I have.

Please share this article with friends or relatives, especially those who might be older and have similar vision difficulties. All of my articles about tech and software come from my perspective--you must be able to see it to use it. Maybe my other articles found in this blog will be of use or provide motivation to not give up--or even try that new piece of tech that everyone is talking about.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Get Out of Debt Faster With These Inexpensive Apps

Debt reduction is the desire of so many these days and I found some easy to use apps for iOS(iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), Android as well as the PC to help achieve your debt reduction goals. It's all about getting started right?


If you find yourself in credit card and/or other debt and can't seem to get out from under it, consider using your tablet, smart phone or PC and create a plan to BECOME DEBT FREE.

Here are some apps or tools that utilize the "snowball" debt reduction method. The "snowball" debt reduction method, simply put, is to pay off the smallest debt first. Then take the payment amount from that first debt and add it to the payment of the second. When the second one is paid off add the old payments of debts one and two to debt three. Thus a snowball effect. The principle helps pay down to debt free fast than just making the minimum payments plus it has a positive affect on you as debts are paid down more quickly. Feel free to read more about this debt reduction method.

The Obvious Advantages to these apps are:
  • Be debt free quicker
    Android app
    Save on interest

  • Debt Payoff Tips & Tricks. FREE
  • Debt Payoff Planner.$0 .99
  • Pay Off Debt.  $2.99
  • Debt Tracker IOU still wantin. FREE
  • (more available)

debt reduction, iOS, iPad
iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
  • Agile Snowball: Debt Simplified iPad... FREE
  • Debt Payoff Lite. FREE
  • Debt Manager. $0.99
  • Debt Free - Pay Off your Debt With Debt Snowball Method.  $0.99
  • Pay Off Debt for iPad.  $2.99
  • (more available)

debt reduction
Credit: Intuit
PC or Mac
  • Any version of Quicken

Because of my vision disability, choosing an app is mostly based on my ability to read the screens. Is the text large enough and is there large contract between text and background. Your reasons might be different however.
For those of you that would rather work in Excel, the Debt Reduction Snowball Calculator, listed above, is quite good and very easy to read. It is a bit more complex than the iOS and Android apps however.
If any of you already use Quicken, there is a built in debt reduction tool that is excellent and I highly recommend. Enter your debts ad current or minimum payments and interest rates. The program runs in seconds and tells you the year and month you will be debt free if you continue making the current or minimum payments you entered. It also shows what will happen if you the month and year you will be debt free if follow the "snowball" method.
With the exception of Quicken, these tools assume you will make each and every payment and NOT add to any debt. If you do add to any debt, simply use the app or tool again.