The Norman Transcript

November 3, 2013

How to lock down your online messages, Part 1

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — How can normal computer users protect themselves against Internet criminals who use online messaging systems such as email? Is such a goal even attainable?

Yes, with some effort and a little learning, online messaging security is possible. Perfect security and super easy, “no thinking involved” security do not exist, but pretty darned good security can be achieved by anyone willing to try.

Keep in mind when reading my recommendations that I do not make the rules for Internet safety and security; I just tell you what they are, so don’t get mad at me if what I say challenges the way you do things.

No, Mrs. Jones, you cannot use “Princess” as your password. Don’t shoot the messenger. For those who prefer no-frills, “just the facts, please” explanations, I submit the following, which applies to all online messaging systems like email, Facebook, instant messaging, etc.

1) You must use strong passwords for your online accounts, unless, of course, you actually want your email account to be hacked. Most hacked email accounts got that way because of one thing: their owners used crummy passwords. Visit my website and read my 6-24-12 column titled “Crummy passwords = hacked email accounts” for a more thorough explanation, and you’ll learn why “everyBasketball7should$” is a very strong password.

2) Most online accounts require that you know the answers to pre-determined “security questions.” It is recommended that you do not give truthful answers to those questions or give answers that anyone else in the world could possibly know; in other words, give fake answers. Read my 2-26-12 column titled “Give fake answers to security questions” to learn why.

3) Don’t give your email address out to people who don’t really need it. Some folks seem to think they are required to do everything that is asked of them, but honestly, does the local grocery store really need your email address so you can get a super-duper saver card? I say no, they do not need it, and if they insist on having an email address associated with your name, I have no qualms whatsoever in giving them a fake email address. You can even establish a separate “give-away” email address for free at Yahoo or Gmail and give that address to intrusive types who insist on grabbing every personal detail of your life.

4) Do not participate in “Fwd:Fwd:Fwd” email chain letters. It seems everyone has an Uncle Bob who has nothing better to do every day than email a zillion goofy stories, jokes and pictures to everyone they know.

Invariably, they do this by pasting everyone’s email address directly in the message’s “TO” field, revealing all the addresses to all the recipients. Then, many of the recipients do the same thing, forwarding the message on to all of their contacts, revealing all their friends email addresses, as well as the ones that were sent to them by Uncle Bob.

This cycle goes on and on, around the world, eventually leading to your email address being added to spam email databases run by Internet crooks; and people wonder why they get so much spam. Tell Uncle Bob to take you off his mass email list.

Continued next week as, “Locking down your online messages, Part 2.”

Dave Moore has been repairing computers in Norman since 1984, when

he borrowed $1,200 to buy a Commodore 64 system. He can be reached at 919-9901 or at davemoorecomputers.