June 26, 2012
Helpful hints from joeeze: Fix your insecure passwords in minutes
Farhad Manjoo's Slate article, published June 17 in the Washington Post, puts paid to the impractical instructions (above) of the grand panjandrums of tech to create different, impossible-to-remember combinations of numbers and letters for each and every website you frequent.
Here are excerpts from Manjoo's piece, which is well worth reading in its entirety.
Right now you're scrambling to change all your passwords. If you're not, you should be. In the wake of a couple of massive security breaches — one at LinkedIn that nabbed 6.5 million passwords and another at eHarmony that compromised 1.5 million accounts — security experts are advising that people change their passwords at the affected sites and at every other site where you used a similar password.
By now you've probably heard the time-worn guidelines for creating strong passwords: Don't use your name or other common words. Use different passwords for different sites. Change them often. Choose security questions that don't involve information that everyone knows about you, or stuff that crooks can easily find on Facebook.
For a lot of people, myself included, these rules are too much trouble. We've all got too many online accounts, so keeping track of different, ever-changing strong passwords for each site seems like a gargantuan task.
In 2009, I stumbled upon a foolproof system to fix all your terrible, vulnerable passwords in just five minutes. My method, which I filched from a commenter at a security forum, generates very strong passwords that are also very easy to remember. This means that you can create good passwords for every site you visit.
But now I've got a better system. This new scheme generates even stronger passwords that are even easier to remember. The one disadvantage is that it doesn't work at every site. For those places where it doesn't work, you'll have to use my 2009 method, which is still really good.
The old, still very good way to fix your terrible passwords: Come up with a short phrase you're likely to remember. Just like in school, it helps to make your mnemonic really bizarre — the stranger the phrase, the easier it'll be to remember. For example, "Kim Kardashian is the most amazing woman in all 50 states," or "Mitt Romney and Barack Obama decided to make 10 waffles." Notice that my phrases use a mix of capitalized and lowercase words, and I added some numbers as well.
To make a password, just take the first letter of each word in your phrase. The sentences above would turn into KKitmawia50s and MRaBOdtm10w. Both of those passwords are extremely strong — they're long, and they're free of common English words that can be guessed by a computer.
You can generate different passwords for different sites by varying your phrase slightly for each one. The phrase "LinkedIn is terrible at securing its passwords so it's my 10th favorite social network" will create a password for LinkedIn (LIitasipsim10fsn) as well as for Twitter (Titasipsim9fsn), Facebook, MySpace and on and on.
Note, too, that it's OK for you to keep similar passwords at similar sites. On sites where a password thief can't do much damage — say, publications like Gawker and the New York Times — you can repeat the same password. You'll want to keep your social networking accounts slightly more secure, but the passwords don't have to be extremely different; after all, if a bad guy gets into your Facebook account, he's not going to be able to do much more additional damage if he gets into your Twitter profile, too. So varying them slightly — as I did above — is perfectly OK, as long as you remember to change them after you hear about a breach like the one at LinkedIn.
You'll want to reserve the most distinct passwords for sites where breaches would cause you a lot of trouble — your financial institutions and your email accounts, which hold the keys to the rest of your online life. (If a bad guy gets into your email, he can use the password reset feature to get into lots of other accounts, too.)
The new, even better way to fix your terrible passwords (which sadly doesn't work everywhere): Start with the same method as above — choose a short, memorable phrase. And that's it. Instead of turning the phrase into a one-word password, just use the whole phrase as your password. For instance, "Mitt loves when Barack makes waffles." That's a memorable phrase. It's also an extremely strong password just by itself - stronger, even, than a password made up of that phrase's initial letters. Instead of shortening the phrase, just type the whole thing in as your password. That's easier than typing a jumble of symbols and uppercase and lowercase letters, and it's easier to remember, too.
I didn't come up with the idea of using a short phrase as a password. The credit should go to Thomas Baekdal, who runs the online magazine Baekdal, and who wrote about this method way back in 2007.
I tried this method at several of the sites I frequent most. It works at Gmail, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, among others, and I encourage you to use short phrases as passwords there. But it doesn't work at my bank, nor is it allowable at the many other sites that impose a maximum length on passwords and/or don't allow spaces in passwords. Both of these requirements are pretty stupid. Limiting the number of characters in a password only makes them less secure, and a ban on spaces forces you to use special characters, which are harder to remember. I'm hoping that eventually, all sites come around to dropping their arcane password rules in favor of a much simpler password dictate: Pick a short, unique phrase.
Whatever you do, just do it — your passwords are a mess, and you should really fix them now.
Multi-Color Changing LED Light Bulb with Remote Control
[via Richard Kashdan]
Note added at 9:41 a.m. July 8, 2012: Reader Alex Blackwood just noted in a comment the availability of a much brighter bulb ((9W vs. 3W iteration featured in the original post) with the same features for $19.99.
Cucumber Killer Whale
Another in a series of edible artworks by Brock Davis.
"Don't take any wooden nickels" is no longer operative.
"Handcrafted from a single piece of wood."
Dimensions: 4" x 2.5" x 0.75".
Maple or Walnut: $45.
[via reader Alan Fick who wrote, "kinda cool + it would float if you fell in the pool." Would that you did as well.]
Do you know where your cat has been?
"On average, 25% of owners allow their cats to go outdoors during the day."
And: "Even more cats spend time on screened porches or live with other animals that do go outside (like dogs and PEOPLE!)."
I'd say the Charlottesville Cat Care Clinic got a lot more bang for their advertising buck than they envisioned when they placed the advertisement.
Of course, they had no idea yours truly would stage an intervention and then send it on its viral way.
More like this, please.
Giant Gummy Snake
Three feet long.
Weighs 1.67 pounds.
Features realistically textured eyes and scales.
Two for $9.99.
[via The Green Head]
How to make an invisible floating bookshelf
From TechEBlog : "Making an invisible bookshelf that appears to float in mid-air isn't as hard as you may think. Simply take a bookend, drill two holes, securely mount it on a wall, and then superglue an old book onto the bottom."
[via Richard Kashdan]
Note added at 1:22 p.m. today: Reader Jo just commented,
I'm sure that I could make a floating bookshelf out of a bookend that I screwed to the wall — but this is not a photo of that.
This is a photo of an actual product by Umbra that someone online mislabeled somewhere down the line. Here is the website.
I'm frustrated that so many websites are posting this image as a crafty item when it is not.
I'm sure those postings are unintentional, but I know how much Joe likes accuracy here on boj, thus my cranky comment.
I think not.
Jo's comment is spot-on.
Buy the Umbra device (which includes mounting hardware) here for $9 and Bob's your uncle.
Turtleback Drink Holder
From the website:
Keep wet cans, bottles, and tumblers out of the sand with these unique coasters.
Pointed feet allow you to secure and level the coasters in the sand to prevent tipping.
Perfect for the beach, pool side, camping, tailgating etc.
Also holds sunglasses, snacks, keys, etc.
Measures 3" x 3" x 2.5".
Set of four: $19.98.