February Tech Challenge: Reset Your Passwords

Did you complete January’s tech challenge and find yourself a password manager?

If you did, then this month’s tech challenge will be a snap. Anytime you login to an account, your powerful password manager will suggest passwords that need to be updated. February tech challenge complete!

If you haven’t yet found a password manager, then we have to ask: What are you waiting for? 

Passwords need to be updated periodically, especially any that have been involved in a data breach, are repeated across different accounts, or are too weak. A password manager will alert you to any passwords that fit those criteria. If you don’t have a password manager, then you’ll have to manually update each of your passwords across your different devices and browsers.

For example, if you have an iPhone, go to Settings, Passwords, Security Recommendations. Make sure “Detect Compromised Passwords” is switched on so you can see a list of passwords which need to be updated. 

Google Chrome and Safari both have password safety checks, although as this article explains, storing passwords in your browser isn’t the safest idea as anyone who has access to your device can access your passwords.

How to Generate Strong Passwords

Coming up with good passwords is tricky. This excellent article is a fun read (with great graphics), and does a superb job of explaining why password length matters and how to generate strong passwords. As the article points out, there’s a misconception that a strong password is one that is difficult to remember. But just because you can’t remember it, doesn’t mean it’s hard to guess. Fortunately a good password manager will suggest strong passwords for you.

At the VERY least, please update your highest priority account passwords, like your banking and investment apps and email accounts. Oh and one more thing… do yourself a favour and get a password manager already!

January Tech Challenge: Consider a Password Manager

“Spend less time on screens” is unlikely to have landed on anyone’s New Year’s resolutions list this year. The global pandemic has pushed technology to the forefront of our lives, from educating our kids, to helping us work from home, to keeping in touch with loved ones. It has also revealed how knowledgeable (or not) we are about these devices we rely on so heavily. With that in mind, Worldline is launching a series of Technology Challenge posts: challenges that are designed to inform and help you get the most out of your devices. Our January Challenge is to get a password manager…or at least consider getting one.


What is a Password Manager?

Mobile phone secure access. Man holding a smartphone with Login, password on the screen, wooden backgroundDo you have Netflix? Three or four social media accounts? A membership to an online workout program? Do you do online banking? Have customer accounts to various on-line stores? 

The average user has around 100 passwords. You’d need a memory of Guinness World Record proportions to be able to remember 100 passwords; especially passwords that fit the requirement of being long, complex, unique, and unpredictable.

It somewhat defeats the purpose to update a sheet of paper or a document on your computer with a list of usernames and passwords. A password manager suggests high-quality passwords and stores them for you. Each time one of your passwords is required, you simply type your master password into your password manager. The password manager handles the rest for you, inputting both username and password.

Don’t I Already Have that on my Device?

You head to your bank’s website and your computer kindly offers to fill in your password. You complete your banking and move on with your day. How does a password manager make this experience any different?

In that example, it is your computer’s browser making the password suggestion. Web browsers all contain their own password managers, however, the passwords are not encrypted. Anyone with access to your computer can access the password files. A password manager offers more security by encrypting your passwords, plus it allows you to access those passwords across web browsers.

Password managers also provide protection against possible phishing attacks as they use website URLs to access passwords. If you click on a link and think you’re being taken to (for example) your bank’s website, but your password manager doesn’t suggest a password to log you in, this could indicate that it is a site disguised as your bank.

Deeper Dive into the Challenge

There are factors to take into account before you get a password manager. January’s Challenge is to learn more about password managers and make an informed decision about whether or not you need one, and which one to get. The following two articles will help you with this challenge:

This article by Stuart Schechter provides a balanced look at password managers and makes the argument that whether or not you need one is largely determined by how you use technology and what sorts of risks you are most likely to be exposed to. This is a recommended read for anyone wanting to know if password managers are a good option for them, and it provides instructions for testing the waters before you fully dive in.

This informative article by Scott Gilbertson starts with the assumption that you should have a password manager and gives a comprehensive breakdown of the best ones out there. It also makes valid counter-arguments to some of the points in the previous article.

Good luck with January’s challenge and we’ll see you in February for the next one!

Internet Safety: Public Wi-Fi & Online Shopping

We’re continuing on our internet safety theme from last month and diving further into how to protect yourself online when using public Wi-Fi or shopping online.

PUBLIC WI-FI

The thought of heading to the local coffee shop to “work from home” is alluring, but how safe is it? There are risks to using public Wi-Fi that you should know about before you click that “Join” button.

What’s the difference between home Wi-Fi and public Wi-Fi?

At home you make use of a router connected to a server owned by your internet service provider. You have elected to have a relationship with your provider and you should choose a provider you trust: every search and keystroke you enter passes through their server and can theoretically be accessed (except for encrypted passwords), although the terms under which that information can be accessed should be outlined in their Privacy Policy.

With public Wi-Fi, you can’t be sure who has access to the server you’re connecting to. Additionally, it is relatively easy for hackers using the same Wi-Fi to get in between you and the public server, even posing as the “free Wi-Fi” that you connect to, thereby gaining access to your personal information. To learn more about the dangers of public Wi-Fi, take a look at this article.

So, what to do about it?

When using public Wi-Fi, you should use a Virtual Private Network. A VPN creates a secure tunnel between your computer and the VPN server so that your data is protected. To learn more about VPNs check out this article.

ONLINE SHOPPING

You’re not alone if you prefer shopping from your couch rather than heading to a busy shopping centre. Over 84% of Canadians polled in 2018 purchased goods and services online, and that number continues to grow.

Along with payment information, shopping online means providing your address, phone number, and email address. You’re also potentially giving out other personal information just by virtue of what you are buying.

To keep your information safe, there are a number of guidelines you should follow. To begin with, don’t shop using public Wi-Fi, especially without a VPN. As mentioned above, it’s relatively simple for hackers using the same public Wi-Fi to retrieve the information you’re entering.

women on couch shopping with tablet

Shop online from home

Next, when shopping online, always pay with a credit card rather than connecting to your bank account. Many sites only accept credit cards, but this should be your standard operating procedure even with payment methods that allow you to connect to a bank account, such as PayPal. Payments made with credit cards can be more easily disputed and credit card companies are quicker to reimburse your money if there has been a breach. If a hacker gains access to your bank account through details you’ve entered online, you have a much smaller chance of ever seeing that money again.

Padlock Icon

Look for the padlock icon in the URL when entering personal information

Finally, always make sure the site is encrypted by checking for the padlock symbol in the site address which ensures that information you enter is secure as it travels between your computer and the site’s server. For some good tips on how to safely use your credit card online check out this article.

With more and more everyday objects able to connect to the internet, such as watches and home entertainment systems, there’s always more we can say about internet safety. Watch for more tips from us in the future here and on social media.

Internet Safety Tips For You and Your Family

With Safer Internet Day on February 11th, and Pink Shirt (Anti-Bullying Day) on February 26th, this is the perfect month to address the topic of internet safety.

This year’s theme for Safer Internet Day is “Together for a better internet” and is a call to action for individuals and organizations around the globe to consider how they can make the internet a kind, safer place for kids and teens. It’s also the perfect day to talk to kids about internet safety, and simultaneously consider ways to protect yourself online.

From inappropriate content, to cyberbullying, to impersonation, and sextortion, it can be overwhelming to think about all the online threats, and how to protect your kids from them. Whether you have young children just starting out on the internet, or teenagers who, let’s face it, are possibly more internet-savvy than you are, it can be difficult knowing exactly what risks to warn your kids about and which ones they’re most at risk from. ProtectKidsOnline.ca provides a breakdown of online risks for different age groups from 5 – 15, and what can be done to help prevent them. Parents, caregivers, and teachers can also sign up to be alerted to emerging issues and be provided with resources to know how to deal with them.

The Better Internet for Kids site is full of helpful tips for the concerned caregiver. Their online guide provides up-to-date information about some of the most popular apps and social networking platforms. This is a fantastic resource if you want to understand what your teenage son means when he says he’s talking to someone on Discord while live-streaming on Mixer, or when your eight year old asks to sign up for Club Penguin. The guide provides details about privacy policies, minimum age requirements, in-app purchases and more, to help you understand the possible dangers that might come with their use. Consider downloading some of these apps for your own device so you can see what they’re all about. It will give you a better starting place from which to have a conversation about them with your kids.

Better Internet for Kids also provides suggestions for how to talk with children about what content is appropriate for them to share online and with whom, and how to talk to them about their online activity and concepts such as identity theft.

The truth is, while we all need to work to make the internet safer for kids, children and teenagers are not the only vulnerable internet users. Adults and elderly parents can also fall victim to extortion and online scams. The Better Internet for Kids portal encourages parents to talk with kids about creating strong passwords and being wary of suspicious emails; important strategies for adults to know and discuss with elderly parents also. And there is a timely warning for parents about consent: consent laws have ramped up in the past few years and yet parents rarely consider obtaining consent from their children when it comes to posting pictures and information about them online. A recent study by Microsoft found that 42% of teenagers questioned in 25 countries reported that they had a problem with their parents sharing pictures of them online. Something to think about.

Cyberbullying

Knowing what your kids are doing online, what apps they’re using, and being confident that they have strong passwords and a good understanding of privacy protection, is only one half of the equation though. Cyberbullying is a real psychological threat to teenagers today and even the safest internet user is not immune.

The Government of Canada website describes Cyberbullying as “the use of email, cell phones, text messages, Internet sites and chat rooms to physically threaten, verbally harass or socially exclude an individual or group. Social media technologies often allow bullies to remain anonymous while distributing damaging messages/pictures to a widespread audience.”

The first step is to give kids tools to know how to handle online bullying. ProtectKidsOnline.ca advises that if you receive a nasty message, don’t respond to it, don’t delete it, show it to someone you trust, block the person, and report them (most social media platforms have mechanisms for reporting bullying behaviours). Again, while this information is intended for children, the truth is, anyone who posts anything online opens themselves up to possible attack. The internet combines the ability to converse with people you’ll never meet in real life with relative (and sometimes literal) anonymity, making people bolder and frequently more willing to engage in heated discussions in a way they never would in person. Many people share stories and snippets of their lives on social media platforms and there are always individuals who see this sharing as an invitation for them to respond and pass judgement. The advice given to teenagers: don’t engage, don’t delete, report it, and talk to someone you trust, is applicable for adults as well. Staying safe on the internet doesn’t just mean password and privacy protection; it’s important to protect your self-esteem and state of mind as well.

Recognizing signs of cyberbullying is almost more important than teaching kids how to protect themselves against it. The negative psychological effects of bullying can stay with children their entire lives, and if you suspect that your child is a victim you should act quickly. This article provides some helpful insights into recognizing the signs and it’s necessary for any adult who works with or spends time with children to be aware of them.

Having your child spend time on the internet can feel a little like sending them out to cross a busy street on their own. But just as we teach kids road safety, internet safety can and should be taught. This February 11th, don’t let the opportunity to discuss online safety with your child pass you by. Check out some of the resources we’ve provided links to in this post; all of them provide helpful information plus links to much more. Arming yourself and your child with this knowledge is a great start to making the internet a safer place for them to explore.

Additional Resources:

For more tips on how to handle cyberbullying check out this article.

For more information on how to protect children online, check out the Canadian Centre for Child Protection site.