Roadmap96: MAP10 - Internet Security | WebReference

Roadmap96: MAP10 - Internet Security


RM 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 -B 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 XT XT 26 XT 27   


"Cyberspace, in its present condition, has a lot in common with the 19th Century West. It is vast, unmapped, culturally and legally ambiguous, verbally terse (unless you happen to be a court stenographer), hard to get around in, and up for grabs. Large institutions already claim to own the place, but most of the actual natives are solitary and independent, sometimes to the point of sociopathy. It is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for both outlaws and new ideas about liberty."
-- John Perry Barlow, Crime and Puzzlement (June 8, 1990)

I would love to tell you that the Internet is a safe place and that there is no reason for you to protect your password. Unfortunately, there are MANY people out there who would LOVE to break into your account and "use your account as a base for operations"(1).

How prevalent is this? According to Mike Godwin, Chief Legal Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it's "fairly common." (1)

The main defense against people who want to break into your account -- a.k.a. "hackers" or "crackers" -- is your password. Keep your password secure and you should never have anything to worry about. Give your password to others, or write your password down and put it near your computer, and . . . well, you get the picture.

There are some KEY points you need to remember to protect yourself and your account:

The best passwords -- the ones that are the easiest for you to remember, and the ones that are the hardest for crackers to crack -- are passwords that are like those fake words you used to create when you would cram for a test. For example, to remember that "the Law of Demand is the inverse relationship between price and quantity demanded," I created the word TLODITIRBP&QD. NO ONE could hack that as a password. Best of all, it's EASY to remember (well, it's easy for an Economist to remember).

Here are a couple of other good passwords:

Sentence Possible password
-------- -----------------
In 1976 I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma I76IMTTO
The conference lost 12,000 dollars TCL12KD
U of A Crimson Tide Football is #1 UACTFI#1

Sentences are EASY to remember, and they make passwords that are nearly impossible to break (and please do NOT use these sample passwords as your own).

Do NOT use well-known abbreviations (for example: wysiwyg), and do NOT use keyboard patterns (for example: qwerty) as your password. BTW, "wysiwyg" stands for "what you see is what you get" and was coined in the mid-eighties when a series of word processors were developed. These word processors allowed the user to see on her display exactly what she would see when it was printed out. We take this kind of computer program for granted now.

Also, never use character names from science fiction or fantasy novels as your password. Computer-oriented people tend to be sci-fi buffs and there is a file that is passed around the Internet that is a list of all the common passwords used by system operators (sysops). This list includes all of your favorite Star Trek, Star Wars, and J.R.R. Tolkien characters.

If you notice weird things happening with your account:

  1. Change your password IMMEDIATELY!
  2. Tell your local Internet Service Provider about it.

It is very common for someone whose account has been hacked to dismiss the signs that the account has been hacked as technical problems with the system. However, when one account is hacked it very often puts the whole system at risk.

How can you tell if your account has been hacked? Some really nice Internet Service Providers put a message on your screen each time that you login telling you the date and time that you last logged in. If the date and time of your last login doesn't match the date and time that you remember last being logged in, change your password and contact your ISP immediately!

Finally, there is one last thing that I want to say before I close: I feel that "hacking" and "cracking" so violate the spirit of the Internet that I will do everything in my power to help put the overgrown babies who engage in such activities where they belong -- behind bars. Until that time comes, however, I am going to change my password frequently.



Contact your local Internet Service Provider, find out how you can change your password, and CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD!!


(1) from a telephone interview with Mike Godwin, Chief Legal Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

(2) comments from the Computer Law Association, as quoted in Bottom Line Personal 6/1/94 p.8 (in Edupage 5.22.92).

- from Edupage 06.09.94 (from a story in the Tampa Tribune 6/8/94 Baylife 5).

Start Lesson Eleven | Go to the Roadmap96 Syllabus | Go to the Roadmap96 Homepage

Originally written by Patrick Douglas Crispen