Get a New Password for Christmas!

Christmas is a great time to secure your devices, whether new presents or last year’s gadgets, and a little effort now can prevent problems later on.

What are you getting for Christmas this year? The latest phone? A wireless monitor for your new baby? A state-of-the-art laptop or tablet? A wi-fi-enabled games console?

The list of possibilities is endless, especially as the so-called” Internet of Things” looks set to roll out to include ordinary household appliances such as fridges, televisions, light switches, front doors and even more.

Tech blogging by Russell Cavanagh at Digitaal Survivor UK.

Password setting

Maybe you already realise that nearly every new wireless device comes with a standard password that’s been set by the manufacturer.

What’s possibly not occurred to you is that malevolent hackers can easily access those standard passwords with a simple online search.

An obvious example is the router for your wi-fi. Simply search “manufacturer passwords for routers” online and this link appears close to the top of the first page on your search engine.

So imagine your neighbour knows this: He or she can easily see what networks are available and may go through the list until finding one that’s still configured to the manufacturer’s original settings.

That means he or she can connect and start using your wi-fi to look at whatever they want online.

Apart from wanting to avoid others poring over naughty stuff or streaming entire movies using your set-up, their activities will likely slow down and degrade your own online experience.

With routers and any other connected devices, you’ll want to reset two levels of password:

  1. The “user password” that allows devices to connect with each other;
  2. The “administrator password” that let’s you get into the device in order to change the connection password and other settings.

In carrying out both of the above, you not only stop third parties from using your device but also prevent them from hijacking your network completely.

Choosing a secure password

Particularly dedicated hackers try to break customised passwords using a variety of methods. These can include “dictionary attacks”, “brute-force attacks”, and other techniques. Just do a search online to see the automated tools and tricks they employ.

Something simple like “l3tm31n!”, or “John04101986” will be hacked within seconds by an attacker who is merely an enthusiast.

The best passwords don’t make sense. By that, I mean something like “m2%>VY9&pirL(4s” will take a pro years to crack. Indeed, the longer the password the better.

(click to enlarge)

So when you unwrap your new present this Christmas, make it a priority to make sure it will be safe and secure to use. And while you’re at it, look at all of your existing devices and do the same with them

And don’t forget to make sure to update operating systems so that the latest security patches are installed.

Futurelearn

If you want to learn more about cyber security and other tech topics, visit the futurelearn.com website. There you’ll find short courses that are accredited by major universities yet are surprisingly easy to follow.

Their courses are free but do require registration (that’s very simple to do).

And for a modest payment, you can gain a certificate to prove you passed your chosen course – potentially providing you with a start to a new career in cyber security!