Tag Archives: management

Lift The Hood On Your PC – Take a Peek With These 5 Free System Information Utilities

imageIf you think developing information, including diagnostics, on your computer’s operating system and hardware is a tough task, you can relax. Here are 5 small, free applications, that make it easy to probe your computer system and create a detailed profile which can include hardware, installed software – motherboard, CPU and GPU specs, remaining drive space, and your operating system security hotfixes – and a lot more.

Belarc Advisor 8.2.7.14:

Belarc Advisor is a free program that automatically generates a detailed audit report of the hardware and software on your computer. It records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, and drive specifications.

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The report also includes a comprehensive list of the software installed on your system, as well as software license numbers and product keys. In addition, it lists the status of the Microsoft hotfixes on your system. If any hotfixes need reinstalling, you will be advised of this.

The results are displayed in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly navigate to different parts of the document, find out more about a particular hotfix entry, or see where a listed software product is installed.

All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server.

System Requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, 2003, XP. Both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows support.

Download at: MajorGeeks

LookInMyPC 2.10.3.158

LookInMyPC is a free application which, like Belarc Advisor, records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, drive specifications and so on. But, it digs much, much, deeper.

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The following graphic shows a very small (I do mean very small) portion of a scan result, run on my test platform. The data shown here is pretty standard stuff.

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System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003/8, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.

Download at: MajorGeeks

A portable version is also available.

SIW (System Info) 2011.10.29i

SIW is an advanced System Information utility that analyzes your computer and gathers detailed information about system properties and settings and displays it in a very comprehensive manner.

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The data generated is divided into major categories:

Software Information: Operating System, Software Licenses (Product Keys / Serial Numbers / CD Key), Installed Software and Hotfixes, Processes, Services, Users, Open Files, System Uptime, Installed Codecs, Passwords Recovery, Server Configuration.

Hardware Information: Motherboard, CPU, Sensors, BIOS, chipset, PCI/AGP, USB and ISA/PnP Devices, Memory, Video Card, Monitor, Disk Drives, CD/DVD Devices, SCSI Devices, S.M.A.R.T., Ports, Printers.

Network Information: Network Cards, Network Shares, currently active Network Connections, Open Ports.

Network Tools: MAC Address Changer, Neighborhood Scan, Ping, Trace, Statistics, Broadband Speed Test

Miscellaneous Tools: Eureka! (Reveal lost passwords hidden behind asterisks), Monitor Test, Shutdown / Restart.

Real-time monitors: CPU, Memory, Page File usage and Network Traffic.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000

Download at: MajorGeeks

Speccy 1.17.340

Speccy (from our good friends over at Piriform – the CCleaner guys), is not quite as comprehensive as the applications described previously. Even so, you can count on this free application to provide you with detailed statistics on every piece of hardware in your computer. Including CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics Cards, Hard Disks, Optical Drives, Audio support. Additionally Speccy adds the temperatures of your different components, so you can easily see if there’s a problem.

Typical info screens.

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System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista and XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: MajorGeeks

PC Wizard 2012.2.10

PC Wizard has been designed for hardware detection but, it really shines in analysis and system benchmarking. It will analyze and benchmark CPU performance, Cache performance, RAM performance, Hard Disk performance, CD/DVD-ROM performance, Removable/FLASH Media performance, Video performance, and MP3 compression performance.

Typical info screens.

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System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: MajorGeeks

9 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Audit Applications, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools

Download Free Norton Identity Safe Beta – Simple, Secure, Password Management For Windows, iOS, And Android

imageFair or not, I look upon weak password control – which leads to a catastrophe – as a self-inflicted injury. According to Norton research – 45 % of us re-use the same, easy to remember password, across multiple sites. Which, virtually assures, that should a hacker gain access to such a password – the door is now open for illegal access to all accounts. A catastrophe waiting in the wings.

I understand the dilemma. Complicated, in other words, safe passwords are often hard to remember, whereas easy passwords, in other words, unsafe passwords, are generally easy to remember. And, a single password is surely easier to remember than a series of passwords, simple or not.

What a troublesome problem!

Good news:

Today, Norton will release Norton Identity Safe Beta – the free public beta of a service which will allow you to secure and synchronize logins, passwords, credit cards, and other web form information across PCs, iOS and Android devices – using the cloud.

As an added bonus, Norton Safe Search is included.  Safe Search bumps up a user’s confidence level since a user can easily see (from search results), if a website is safe before visiting the site.

Norton Identity Safe setup walkthrough.

Consider very carefully as to whether “Remember Password” is appropriate in your situation.

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Pay close attention to the password requirements.

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Almost finished.

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On completion, a web page will open with the following. From what I can see in this early test – since the application seems to rely on the Toolbar for access – you must accept. In Firefox, for example the Toolbar can be controlled through Tools – Add-ons.

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Not quite finished. It’s time to check your inbox – confirm your email address. Click on the link………

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and – finished!

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Norton Identity Safe Home:

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Norton Identity Safe Fast facts:

Simplified password management – Eliminates the hassle of remembering multiple logins and passwords, as users only need to remember one master password for quick, secure access to their favorite sites.

Streamlined user experience – Shows users their logins with thumbnail images, allowing them to log in to a desired site by clicking on the image, or for mobile and tablet users, by simply touching the screen.

Share Via – Allows users to safely share online content by sending URLs through email and social networking plugins, directly from Norton Identity Safe beta.

Automatic login synchronization across devices – Enables users to store a password on one device, and easily log in from another device – wherever they go.

Supported browsers:

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Download at: Norton Identity Safe

Note: Norton Identity Safe Mobile Edition beta application, must be installed on mobile devices to access Norton Identity Safe.  The mobile applications complement the PC client, which must be downloaded and installed prior to installing the mobile applications.

Note:  If you have Norton Internet Security or Norton 360, you already have Norton Identity Safe installed.

Norton let me know of the pending release of Identity Safe Beta, yesterday. So, you’ll understand, this is not a review – but rather, a heads-up.

If you choose to download Identity Safe, I would be most interested in your personal observations as to functionality and value.

Helpful hints – here are some guidelines on choosing a strong password:

Make sure your password contains a minimum of 8 characters.

Use upper and lower case, punctuation marks and numbers.

Use a pass phrase (a sentence), if possible. For example, I use an 18 alpha character pass phrase (upper and lower case), supplemented with 4 numeric characters on this site. And, only on this site.

Since brute force dictionary attacks are common, do not use single word passwords that are words in a dictionary.

Use a different password for each sign-in site.

If you have difficulty in devising a strong password/s, take a look at Random.org’s – Random Password Generator – a very cool free password tool.

15 Comments

Filed under Android, Anti-Malware Tools, Beta Software, Cloud Computing Applications, Connected Devices, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Norton

What’s INSIDE Your PC? 6 Free System Information Utilities For Non-Geeks

imageIf you think developing information on your computer’s operating system and hardware is a tough task, you can relax. Here are 6 small, free applications, that make it easy to probe your computer system and create a detailed profile which can include hardware, installed software – motherboard, CPU and GPU specs – remaining drive space, and your operating system security hotfixes.

Belarc Advisor:

Belarc Advisor is a free program that automatically generates a detailed audit report of the hardware and software on your computer. It records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, and drive specifications.

image

The report also includes a comprehensive list of the software installed on your system, as well as software license numbers and product keys. In addition, it lists the status of the Microsoft hotfixes on your system. If any hotfixes need reinstalling, you will be advised of this.

The results are displayed in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly navigate to different parts of the document, find out more about a particular hotfix entry, or see where a listed software product is installed.

System Requirements: Windows 7, Vista, 2003, XP, 2000, NT 4, Me, 98, and 95. Both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows support.

Download at: Download.com

LookInMyPC:

LookInMyPC is a free application which, like Belarc Advisor, records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, drive specifications and so on. But, it digs much, much, deeper.

image

A number of features keeps this application a cut above the average:

The results are displayed in your Web Browser in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly search for additional information.

As well, the report can be zipped, and then forwarded as an email attachment to your favorite “tech support” person.

The following graphic shows a very small (I do mean very small) portion of a scan result, run on my test platform. The data shown here is pretty standard stuff.

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System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003/8, Vista and Windows 7.

Download at: LookInMyPC

A portable version is also available.

SIW – System Information for Windows:

SIW is an advanced System Information for Windows tool that analyzes your computer and gathers detailed information about system properties and settings and displays it in a very comprehensive manner.

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The data generated is divided into major categories:

Software Information: Operating System, Software Licenses (Product Keys / Serial Numbers / CD Key), Installed Software and Hotfixes, Processes, Services, Users, Open Files, System Uptime, Installed Codecs, Passwords Recovery, Server Configuration.

Hardware Information: Motherboard, CPU, Sensors, BIOS, chipset, PCI/AGP, USB and ISA/PnP Devices, Memory, Video Card, Monitor, Disk Drives, CD/DVD Devices, SCSI Devices, S.M.A.R.T., Ports, Printers.

Network Information: Network Cards, Network Shares, currently active Network Connections, Open Ports.

Network Tools: MAC Address Changer, Neighborhood Scan, Ping, Trace, Statistics, Broadband Speed Test

Miscellaneous Tools: Eureka! (Reveal lost passwords hidden behind asterisks), Monitor Test, Shutdown / Restart.

Real-time monitors: CPU, Memory, Page File usage and Network Traffic.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000

Download at: Download.com

Speccy v1.12:

Speccy is not quite as comprehensive as the applications described previously. Even so, you can count on this free application to provide you with detailed statistics on every piece of hardware in your computer. Including CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics Cards, Hard Disks, Optical Drives, Audio support. Additionally Speccy adds the temperatures of your different components, so you can easily see if there’s a problem.

Typical info screens.

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System requirements: Windows 7, Vista and XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: Download.com

WinAudit:

I haven’t personally tested this one, but you can read a review of this free computer audit application What’s really under the hood of that computer? on fellow Blogger Rick Robinette’s site.

PC Wizard:

PC Wizard has been designed for hardware detection but, it really shines in analysis and system benchmarking. It will analyze and benchmark CPU performance, Cache performance, RAM performance, Hard Disk performance, CD/DVD-ROM performance, Removable/FLASH Media performance, Video performance, and MP3 compression performance.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: Download.com

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

9 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Audio Applications, Computer Tools, Diagnostic Software, Freeware, Software, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

What’s In Your PC? Take A Look With Free LookInMyPC

image Do you have a detailed profile of your computer system which includes details on hardware and installed software? What do you know about your computer’s motherboard, CPU and GPU, remaining drive space, or your operating system’s security hotfixes?

To effectively maintain your computer, and proactively deal with problems that may occur, you can make the diagnostic process much easier if you have specific and accurate details of your computer.

If you need help from a computer support group, from a tech support line, or from a computer knowledgeable friend, you will need to provide specific and accurate details of your computer. Without these details, it can be very difficult for even the most knowledgeable computer tech to be time efficient.

So it is important for you to create a detailed profile of your computer system before problems occur, and retain a printed copy of the report. Normally, creating such a profile can be very time intensive. But there are time saving solutions.

One such solution is LookInMyPC – a free program that automatically generates a detailed audit report of the hardware and software on your computer. It records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, drive specifications, and much, much, more.

You may get one or more security warnings (as illustrated below), during the install, since this applications digs deep into the system.

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The graphic below indicates just how deep this application digs.

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The following graphic shows a very small (I do mean very small) portion of a scan result, run on my test platform. The data shown here is pretty standard stuff.

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But, in this portion of the report, the data shown is more complex and could be helpful (along with a huge amount of additional available data), in system diagnostics.

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A number of features keeps this application a cut above the average:

The results are displayed in your Web Browser in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly search for additional information.

As well, the report can be zipped, and then forwarded as an email attachment to your favorite “tech support” person.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003/8, Vista and Windows 7.

Download at: LookInMyPC

A portable version is also available.

I have been using this program for some time, and find it invaluable for troubleshooting, and diagnostics.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

6 Comments

Filed under Computer Audit Applications, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Portable Applications, Software, USB, Utilities

Weak Password Control – A Self Inflicted Injury

imageOver the weekend, Gawker.com was attacked, leading to a compromise of some 1.5 million user login credentials on Gawker owned sites, including Gizmodo, and Lifehacker.

According to Gawker Media

Our user databases appear to have been compromised. The passwords were encrypted. But simple ones may be vulnerable to a brute-force attack. You should change your Gawker password and on any other sites on which you’ve used the same passwords.

In an ironic twist to this tale of woe, it turns out that Nick Denton, the site’s founder, had not followed his own advice and in fact, used the same password for his Google Apps account, his Twitter account, and others.

So what gives? Why would someone with the supposed technical competence of Denton be so boneheaded? I suspect it’s because the reality is – he’s no different than any typical user when it comes to establishing and enforcing proper password control. A lackadaisical effort is the norm.

I understand the the dilemma. Complicated, in other words, safe passwords are hard to remember, whereas easy passwords, in other words unsafe passwords, are easy to remember. And, a single password is surely easier to remember than a series of passwords, simple or not. No surprise then, that most computer users’ employ a single, easy to remember, and consequently – unsafe password.

So what’s a user to do to avoid this critical security lapse? Well, you could follow the most common advice you’re likely to find when it comes to password control, and install a “password safe” – an application designed to store and retrieve password.

The Internet is full of advice that on the face of it seems reasonable, responsible and accurate. You know how it is – if you hear it often enough then it must be true. In my view, the password safe advice falls into this category.

Let me pose this question – you wouldn’t hang your keys outside your front door, would you? Of course you wouldn’t. Then why would you save passwords on the Internet, or on your computer? If there is one computer truism that is beyond dispute, it’s this – any computer application can be hacked, including password safes.

I have never saved passwords online, or on a local machine. Instead, I write my passwords down, and record them in a special book; a book which I keep ultra secure. There are some who disagree, for many reasons, with this method of password control, but I’m not about to change my mind on this issue.

I know that on the face of it, writing down your password seems counter intuitive, and flies in the face of conventional wisdom, since the issue here is one of security and safety.

But, ask yourself this question – is your home, office, wallet etc., more secure than your computer? If the answer isn’t “yes”, then you have additional issues that need to be addressed.

While it may be true that you don’t want your wife, lover, room mate, or the guy in the next office, to gain access to your written list of passwords – and writing down your passwords will always present this risk; the real risk lies in the cyber-criminal, who is perhaps, thousands of miles away.

Computer security involves a series of trade-offs – that’s just the reality of today’s Internet. And that brings us to the inescapable conclusion, that strong passwords, despite the fact that they may be impossible to remember – which means they must be written down – are considerably more secure than those that are easy to remember.

Here are some guidelines on choosing a strong password:

Make sure your password contains a minimum of 8 characters.

Use upper and lower case, punctuation marks and numbers.

Use a pass phrase (a sentence), if possible. However, not all sites allow pass phrases.

Since brute force dictionary attacks are common, keep away from single word passwords that are words in a dictionary.

Use a different password for each sign-in site. This should be easy since you are now going to write down your passwords. Right?

You are entitled, of course to disregard the advice in this article, and look at alternatives to writing down your passwords, including Password Safe, a popular free application. As well, a number of premium security applications include password managers.

Interestingly, Bruce Schneier, perhaps the best known security guru and a prime mover, some years back, behind the development of  Password Safe, is now an advocate of – you guessed it; writing down your passwords.

If you have difficulty in devising a strong password/s, take a look at Random.org’s, Random Password Generator – a very cool free password tool.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

15 Comments

Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Password Control, Software, System Security, Windows Update

Profile Your Computer System With Free Belarc Advisor Version 8.1

image Do you have a detailed profile of your computer system including hardware and installed software? What do you know about your computer’s motherboard, CPU and GPU, remaining drive space, or your operating system security hotfixes?

To effectively maintain your computer and proactively deal with problems that may occur, it is essential that you have as much information about your system as possible.

If you need help from a computer support group, from a tech support line, or from a computer knowledgeable friend, you will need to provide specific and accurate details of your computer. Without these details, it can be very difficult for even the most knowledgeable computer tech to be time efficient.

So it is important for you to create a detailed profile of your computer system before problems occur, and retain a printed copy of the report. Normally, creating such a profile can be very time intensive. But there are time saving solutions.

Belarc Advisor (last updated September 16), is a free program that automatically generates a detailed audit report of the hardware and software on your computer. It records essential information such as; operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, drive specifications, and much, much more.

The following screen capture shows only a very small portion of the audit report.

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The report also includes a comprehensive list of the software installed on your system, as well as software license numbers and product keys. In addition, it lists the status of the Microsoft hotfixes on your system. If any hotfixes need reinstalling, you will be advised of this.

The results are displayed in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly navigate to different parts of the document, find out more about a particular hotfix entry, or see where a listed software product is installed.

I have been using this program for 5+ years and find it invaluable for troubleshooting, and diagnostics.

System Requirements: Windows 7, Vista, 2003, XP, 2000, NT 4, Me, 98, and 95. Both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows support.

Browser Requirements: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and many others.

Download at: Download.com

Belarc Advisor is free for personal use only.

Additional free computer audit applications include:

SIW – System Information for Windows…

Speccy

WinAudit

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

16 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Audit Applications, downloads, Freeware, Reports, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Should You Forget About Password Safes and Write Down Your Passwords?

image There are days when Surfing the Internet, it seems to me,  is like skating on thin ice – one wrong move and you’re in trouble. I know – this past weekend I got hacked. After 20+ years – BAM!

There are any number of possibilities as to what happened, but one of those possibilities is not unauthorized access to my online saved Passwords. I don’t save passwords online. I never have, and I never will.

Instead, I write my passwords down, and record them in a special book; a book which I keep ultra secure.

There are some who disagree, for many reasons, with this method of password control, but I’m not about to change my mind on this issue, and here’s why –

The world is full of advice that on the face of it seems reasonable, responsible and accurate. You know how it is – if you hear it often enough then it must be true.

One piece of computer security advice that you’ve probably heard over and over again is – don’t write down your password/s. The problem is; this piece of advice couldn’t be more wrong, despite the fact it seems reasonable, responsible and accurate.

Here’s the dilemma we face. Complicated, in other words, safe passwords are hard to remember, whereas easy passwords, in other words unsafe passwords, are easy to remember. No surprise then that most computer users’ employ easy to remember, and unsafe passwords.

You know the kind of passwords I’m talking about – obvious passwords, like your first name, or your wife’s name, child’s name, date of birth date, etc. – passwords you’re not likely to forget. And that’s the problem – there’s no point in having a password at all if cyber-criminals will have no difficulty in figuring it out.

Cyber-criminals use simple processes, all the way to highly sophisticated techniques, to capture online passwords as evidenced by the Hotmail fiasco last year, in which an anonymous user posted usernames, and passwords, for over 10,000 Windows Live Hotmail accounts to a web site. Some reports indicate that Google’s Gmail, and Yahoo Mail, were also targeted. This specific targeting is one possibility that might explain how my Gmail account got hacked.

Not surprisingly, 123456 was the most common password captured, followed by (are you ready for this?), 123456789. Some truly brilliant users used reverse numbers, with 654321 being very common. Pretty tricky, huh? I’m being a little cynical, but..

I know that on the face of it, writing down your password seems counter intuitive and flies in the face of conventional wisdom, since the issue here is one of security and safety.

But, ask yourself this question – is your home, office, wallet etc., more secure than your computer? If the answer isn’t “yes”, then you have additional issues that need to be addressed.

While it may be true that you don’t want your wife, lover, room mate, or the guy in the next office, to gain access to your written list of passwords – and writing down your passwords will always present this risk; the real risk lies in the cyber-criminal, who is perhaps, thousands of miles away.

image Computer security involves a series of trade-offs – that’s just the reality of today’s Internet. And that brings us to the inescapable conclusion, that strong passwords, despite the fact that they may be impossible to remember – which means they must be written down – are considerably more secure than those that are easy to remember.

Here are some guidelines on choosing a strong password:

Make sure your password contains a minimum of 8 characters.

Use upper and lower case, punctuation marks and numbers.

Use a pass phrase (a sentence), if possible. However, not all sites allow pass phrases.

Since brute force dictionary attacks are common, keep away from single word passwords that are words in a dictionary.

Use a different password for each sign-in site. This should be easy since you are now going to write down your passwords. Right?

You are entitled, of course to disregard the advice in this article, and look at alternatives to writing down your passwords, including Password Safe, a popular free application. As well, a number of premium security applications include password managers.

Guest writer, Glenn Taggart’s article from yesterday – LastPass Password Manager – Secure Your Passwords and User Names, offers a terrific review of another free password application.

If you have difficulty in devising a strong password/s, take a look at Random.org’s, Random Password Generator – a very cool free password tool.

As an additional form of protection, you should consider the Firefox add-on KeyScrambler, which will protect you from both known and unknown keyloggers.

For additional info on password management, checkout Rick Robinette’s “PASS-the-WORD”… Basic password management tips” Many regular readers will remember that Rick is a very popular guest writer on this site.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

28 Comments

Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Email, Freeware, Gmail, Google, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Personal Perspective, Software, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Yahoo