Keep­ing hack­ers away from your valu­able data and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

Those se­cret codes you cre­ate for your on­line ac­counts are in­her­ently in­se­cure, but there are steps you can take and tools you can use to keep hack­ers away from your valu­able data and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion

Investment Executive - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANNY BRAD­BURY

pass­words have been with us for at least since the Ro­mans con­quered Europe, and prob­a­bly long be­fore that. Pass­words were first used to ac­cess com­put­ers in the early 1960s. Al­most 60 years later, pass­words are a part of prac­ti­cally ev­ery as­pect of life. And cy­ber­crim­i­nals ex­ploit vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to take over ac­counts by the mil­lions.

How­ever, there are steps you can take and tools you can use to man­age your pass­words safely.

Pass­words are in­her­ently in­se­cure. They rely only on some­thing the user knows, which makes them no­to­ri­ously easy to steal. Crim­i­nals can take ad­van­tage of this vul­ner­a­bil­ity by phish­ing for pass­words via email or by hack­ing a web­site you use.

Hack­ers have stolen pass­words en masse from web­sites such as ya­hoo.com and linkedin.com. Usu­ally, the stolen pass­words have to be de­crypted, though, and this is the stage at which pass­word sim­plic­ity causes prob­lems. The more straight­for­ward or pop­u­lar a pass­word is, the more likely crim­i­nals can de­crypt it.

Un­for­tu­nately, many dig­i­tal de­vice users are ter­ri­ble at cre­at­ing unique, dif­fi­cult to crack pass­words. In early 2017, Keeper Se­cu­rity Inc., a stolen-pass­word man­age­ment soft­ware com­pany, scoured more than 10 mil­lion pass­words that had been col­lected and pub­lished by hack­ers. Al­most 70% of peo­ple who’d been hacked used “123456” as their pass­word. The next most pop­u­lar? “123456789,” fol­lowed by “qw­erty.”

cre­at­ing a bet­ter pass­word When us­ing pass­words to se­cure your ac­counts, you should make them as strong as pos­si­ble. Does this mean mix­ing num­bers, up­per and lower case let­ters and spe­cial sym­bols to cre­ate un­in­tel­li­gi­ble gob­bledy­gook? Ac­tu­ally, no. The Mary­land­based Na­tional In­sti­tute of Stan­dards and Tech­nol­ogy (NIST) pub­lished its Dig­i­tal Iden­tity Guide­lines in 2017, which rec­om­mends the op­po­site.

By all means, en­sure that your pass­words aren’t sin­gle words that you find in the dic­tionary, pop­u­lar pass­words har­vested from prior data breaches or con­text-spe­cific words such as user­names, the NIST guide­lines ad­vise. How­ever, your pass­words should be both mem­o­rable and unique.

One ap­proach is to use “pass phrases”: se­quences of words that tell a sim­ple story that is easy to re­mem­ber. Still, mem­o­riz­ing these by the dozen will be dif­fi­cult.

In­stead, you could just jump straight to a pass­word man­ager. These pro­grams en­crypt and store pass­words for var­i­ous web­sites and apps, and usu­ally “aut­ofill” a web­site page with your rel­e­vant pass­word so that you don’t have to re­mem­ber the pass­word at all. Most browsers of­fer pass­word stor­age, but these of­ten don’t fo­cus on se­cu­rity.

Al­ter­na­tively, ded­i­cated pass­word­man­age­ment prod­ucts, such as LastPass, Dash­lane and Keeper, are avail­able.

There are sev­eral things to con­sider when choos­ing one of these tools. For ex­am­ple, en­sure that they pro­vide an ex­ten­sion that lets you fill in forms and lo­gin fields au­to­mat­i­cally when us­ing your favourite desk­top browser. An­other fea­ture to look for is the abil­ity to im­port pass­words that you al­ready store in your browser.

An­other use­ful fea­ture is the abil­ity to share pass­words se­curely with an as­sis­tant or col­league who uses the same soft­ware, so that per­son can ac­cess the tool on your be­half, for ex­am­ple. On this note, many pass­word man­agers en­able you to des­ig­nate an emer­gency con­tact who can re­cover all of your pass­words should you be­come ill or pass away.

se­cure ac­cess­when on the move Mo­bile sup­port is an­other use­ful fea­ture to have, and most pass­word man­agers worth their salt will sup­port mo­bile plat­forms. The two ma­jor mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tems, Ap­ple Inc.’ s iOS and Al­pha­bet Inc.’ s An­droid, han­dle pass­word ac­cess in dif­fer­ent ways, though.

An­droid will hap­pily let your pass­word­man­age­ment soft­ware log you into your mo­bile apps. iOS is stricter about this. It doesn’t al­low third-party pass­word man­agers to fill in pass­words au­to­mat­i­cally. In­stead, it pre­vi­ously used its own pass­word man­ager, called Key­chain, to fill pass­words au­to­mat­i­cally in the Sa­fari browser.

Tra­di­tion­ally, iOS app de­vel­op­ers had to sup­port the Key­chain aut­ofill fea­ture ex­plic­itly in their apps to log users in seam­lessly. But in iOS 11, Ap­ple in­tro­duced a new fea­ture called Pass­word Aut­ofill for Apps, which lets you log in with your saved pass­words au­to­mat­i­cally.

iPhone and iPad users want­ing seam­less con­ve­nience may de­cide to use Key­chain as their pass­word man­ager, but if they use a Win­dows PC from Microsoft Corp., then they are out in the cold be­cause Key­chain isn’t sup­ported on the Win­dows plat­form. As so of­ten hap­pens in tech­nol­ogy, if the prod­ucts in your pocket and on your desk are not from the same ven­dor’s ecosys­tem, you will have to make some com­pro­mises.

These com­pro­mises will fade over time, though, thanks to the use of bio­met­rics on smart­phones. Most modern smart­phone mak­ers fea­ture bio­met­ric ac­cess. iPhone ver­sions 5s through 8 sup­port TouchID fin­ger­print-based ac­cess, and Ap­ple al­lows third-party app de­vel­op­ers to sup­port this form of lo­gin di­rectly. Ama­zon, Drop­box, Ever­note and Mint are just some of the apps en­abling iPhone users to log in with their fin­ger­print or thumbprint.

Now, any app sup­port­ing TouchID also will work au­to­mat­i­cally with the new FaceID fa­cial recog­ni­tion fea­ture on the iPhone X plat­form. This fea­ture will let you log in just by look­ing at your iPhone.

Bio­met­ric fin­ger­print and fa­cial recog­ni­tion rep­re­sent the fu­ture of sys­tem ac­cess. Fin­ger­print scan­ners and fa­cial recog­ni­tion are be­com­ing a thing on desk­tops, too. Var­i­ous Mac com­put­ers now have TouchID scan­ners built in, and soon FaceID will make its way onto those sys­tems as well. Many Win­dows 10 users al­ready have this ca­pa­bil­ity with the fa­cial recog­ni­tion fea­tures in Win­dows Hello, which let users log onto that plat­form by star­ing at a de­vice’s we­b­cam.

an ex­tra layer of pro­tec­tion Bio­met­ric ac­cess for mo­bile and com­put­ing de­vices may be tak­ing over slowly, but there’s an ex­tra layer of pro­tec­tion that ev­ery­one should be us­ing when ac­cess­ing on­line ap­pli­ca­tions if avail­able: two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion (2FA).

You may use bio­met­rics on your smart­phone i nstead of a pass­word for con­ve­nience, but bio­met­ric ac­cess is not manda­tory for peo­ple ac­cess­ing on­line ser­vices. Hack­ers still can use your web­site pass­word to ac­cess your on­line ac­counts without any bio­met­ric in­for­ma­tion.

To pre­vent hack­ers us­ing stolen or guessed pass­words, many sites now of­fer an ex­tra layer of pro­tec­tion that re­quires you to in­put an ex­tra piece of in­for­ma­tion tied to a de­vice in your pos­ses­sion. Some web­sites sup­port­ing 2FA send a text mes­sage to your smart­phone con­tain­ing a code that you must en­ter in or­der to con­tinue log­ging into the web­site.

Other web­sites re­quire you to en­ter a code dis­played in an app on your smart­phone. One of the most com­mon 2FA apps is Google Authen­ti­ca­tor, but oth­ers in­clude Microsoft Authen­ti­ca­tor.

Cur­rently, 2FA is the best form of pro­tec­tion for web­site users; it be­comes es­pe­cially im­por­tant when deal­ing with sen­si­tive data, as fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors of­ten do. 2FA may in­tro­duce some fric­tion by re­quir­ing you to en­ter ex­tra i nfor­ma­tion when ac­cess­ing ac­counts, but a lit­tle in­con­ve­nience will be worth it for the peace of mind you gain in re­turn.

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