Do you keep your passwords secure?

Posted on December 20, 2017


At some point in your life, you’ve probably worked with someone who sees an unlocked, unattended computer as an invitation to cause mischief.

I’ve known people who will jump onto an unguarded machine and send out a jokey email to a colleague from your account, or change your desktop background to something ridiculous.

At one place I’ve worked at, leaving your computer unlocked with your Facebook account open was really asking for it. People who did this could find themselves posting some very peculiar updates, and checking in at some unglamorous places. Another popular piece of high-jinx was changing somebody’s date of birth to the current date, then watching their confused face as they started to receive ‘Happy Birthday’ messages from friends. One poor woman I used to work with had this done to her so many times, Facebook told her she wasn’t allowed to change it back!

Though annoying, these pranks are pretty harmless, but if the wrong people gain access to an account, it can have devastating consequences.

A few weeks ago, the MP Damian Green found himself in the news due to a large amount of legal but sexually explicit material being found on a computer in his office. Among the fellow Conservative MPs who leapt to Green’s defence was Nadine Dorries, although the way she did it may have simply dug the hole even deeper and uncovered a wider issue with data security among politicians.

Dorries’ forthright admission that her account details are freely passed from person to person has led Theresa May’s internet safety advisor to remind MPs to keep their passwords secure.

Perhaps the main online security concern today is with internet banking, with most banks now realising that passwords alone are an insufficient safeguard for their customers’ accounts. With the majority of British bank account holders wanting at least a three-factor login process, many banks are now issuing special devices to customers that they need to have to hand in order to access their accounts.

What makes password security even more of an issue is that so many people are continuing to choose such poor ones. Thankfully, the most popular password is no longer ‘password’, which has dropped down to #8. Now, it’s the not much more imaginative ‘123456’.

One of the cyber-pranksters I mentioned earlier would claim that his troublemaking was actually performing a service by reminding colleagues of the importance of computer security. I’m not convinced that was his true motivation but, rightly or wrongly, his antics did encourage staff to lock their machines!

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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