Online Safety

May 15, 2010

So now that I’ve explained the basics of online community, it’s time to discuss the real reason I started this blog-ONLINE SAFETY.

So much is written about the bad stuff that happens, and how horrifying the world wide web can be for the unsuspecting victim. I’d like to begin the discussions trying to explain a few things to folks so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I am not going to feed in to paranoia; neither am I going to tell you that the internet is all good. Just like the offline world, there are good and bad people that live in the space. And anyone that is looking to inhabit any space online needs to be able to tell the difference and learn a few basic bits of info to survive.

So, for this week’s blog-let’s discuss usernames and passwords. I know-basic and petty, yes? NO. Even the most seasoned, paranoid hardcore online geek can be taken for a ride if they do not protect their usernames and passwords. So here we go-the very basics:

Username – A user is a person who uses a computer or Internet service. A user may have a user account that identifies the user by a username (also user name), screen name (also screenname), or “handle”, which is derived from the identical Citizen’s Band radio term. To log in to an account, a user is typically required to authenticate himself/herself/itself with a password or other credentials for the purposes of accounting, security, logging, and resource management. (wikipedia).

In other words, most web sites will offer up some sort of service to you, as the consumer, so long as they can collect basic information about YOU, the CONSUMER. Once you create a username at a web site, you will be able to do a  lot more at a web site. Some examples may be:

  • View more content
  • Play a game
  • Do your banking
  • Chat with a friend that has a different username

However, you must also provide a password. Passwords act as a sort of “secret code”, if you will. Think about your bicycle lock, or a number combination lock. Nobody knows that number combination and you certainly would not use a number combination that the whole world would be able to figure out. Passwords for your usernames should be the same. More on this later.

Now, what does the company or web site get by having you create a username? Glad you asked 🙂 on the surface, just creating an account is free to you. However! whenever you create a username, yuo are also being asked some basic information about yourself – your age, state where you live, maybe if you are married or single. All of this information is kept by the organization so that they may study YOU. And the more info you give them, the better th ey will be to advertise certain t hings that appeal to YOU, the consumer.

Example: If you are a 65 year old male, never been married, chances are that the company is not going to market baby formula to you. Get it?

Now on to passwords. I just have a couple more things to say about choosing a password for your accounts. Think of it this way-the easier it is for you to remember, the easier it will be for a thief to guess your password.

A good rule of thumb is to use not just letters and numbers, but to scramble them up in between. And if you can use capitalized letters, and ASCII characters that’s even better.  A good example would be to take a random word, like elephant. Now, let’s make this word a good password by using some of the instructions I gave above: e!ePH@n7.

That’s much more difficult for someone to guess. Another great method for creating a difficult password (trust me, this works!) is this:

  1. Open up a blank text or word document.
  2. Sit up straight in your chair.
  3. Close your eyes, and clunk your forehead down on your keyboard.
  4. Whatever pops up on the document, is your password!

I great friend told me about that trick. Works like a charm.

That’s it for this time folks. Do you have anything to add about usernames or passwords? Leave a message here 🙂

Thanks for playin!

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