Friday, August 1, 2014

Password Frenzy

I've been working with parents on setting up Apple IDs for students as we embark on our 1:1 program.  The process is working well with one exception: parents can't get to their email outside of their phone because they don't remember the password.  This problem has made me think about what we ask of our students at such a young age.

In thinking about my own children, they have phone pass codes, Instagram passwords, Minecraft passwords, email passwords on their phone, school email, half-a-dozen or so programs used at school, and the list just seems to go on and on.  All these different accounts and they have to remember the passwords.  I think about me as an adult and the list is probably quadrupled from my children.  

Here are some tips that I have picked up over the years to help combat the password monster.  These are my suggestions based off of what I have been told.  I am not a security expert.  I just like to keep things as simple as possible.
1) As easy as it is, DO NOT use the same password for every site.  This could compromise your internet security.  With that said, there are some sites that having a common password would not kill you.  Sites that offer access to materials but have no integration, communication, or financial information are all OK to have the same password.  Just make sure it is not easy to break.
2) Create a base password and customize it by site.  A lot of suggestions I have seen over the years are to create a common password that is then customized by site.  Choose a word that means something to you but is not easy to figure out (your 3rd grade nickname is probably not the best).  For this example, let's say I chose the word "king".  I would then combine that with a number (not your birthday or year) because most sites like alphanumeric passwords.  So now, my base password might by "king1492".  This is eight characters and meets many sites' criteria but it isn't strong enough.  Change a letter to a capital and you have just strengthened it more.  "kinG1492" would be stronger.  Next, is the customization for the sites.  If this is for Twitter for instance, try "kinG1492ter" for the last three letters of the site.  Apple might be "kinG1492ple".  If a site requires a special character, add it to the end or replace a character with it like "k!nG1492get".
3) Use a password manager.  There are many password manager apps and programs out there and it is a matter of choice.  Sites such as PC Magazine and Digital Trends have reviews and advice on using password managers.  The biggest pitfall to these types of apps and programs is if someone gets your master password, all of your data is vulnerable.  An advantage is that these apps and programs can also create random passwords for you.

For students, this is even harder.  They want to write them down on pieces of paper or in their agenda or notebook at school or they create a note on their device and put them in there unsecured.  We need to teach them how to organize them at an early age so that they don't fall prey to our conundrum.  Here are some sites that help parents teach their students about good internet security.
With so much on our phones and tablets, the art of remembering passwords (and phone numbers for that matter) and other important data has gotten lost--or at the very least, replaced.  We just need to find a way to remember all of this information when it is needed.

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