Welcome to October, its time to change…

(Imagine a calming voice over soothing music as you read the following sentence) 

“Beware of attachments. Be open to change and learn to let go. Don’t take shortcuts… Now breathe easy.” 

No, no, no, please don’t stop. Keep reading. I am not trying to enlighten you about any Zen habits (which by the way are difficult to practice but can change your life for better, is what I hear from many).  I am talking about information security – protecting your identity (and of those who have trusted you with their identity) in the ever-expanding, dense and sometimes dark digital universe. 

So, what can Zen practice teach you about information security? 

Beware of attachments (and links) … 

Just like in life, when it comes to emails, you must be extremely careful with the attachments and the links that you come across. Wrong company, even if sometimes disguised as friends, can ruin one’s life. Similarly, clicking a wrong attachment or a web link in an email, even if it seems to come from a trusted friend or colleague, may lead to your vital identity information being compromised. See this quick video for more information on this topic (don’t worry, I promise you it’s safe).  

 Learn to let go… 

We love our worldly possessions almost as much as we love our passwords. I was once talking to someone who said he had finally figured out one of the most complex passwords ever and that he loved it so much that he’d been using it for several years!  (talk about attachments 😉). Well before we learn to let go of our worldly belongings, I suggest you start with letting go of your passwords every four to six weeks (or more frequently if you wish).  Although most systems ‘require’ you to change the passwords every six to twelve months, there is a chance that some unauthorized automated bots may have illegally harvested your password and it may get used by some hacker in the future. If you have changed your password in the meantime, the old password would be rendered useless. 

 Don’t take shortcuts… 

By shortcuts, I mean shorter passwords. Passwords like password01 are obviously easy to remember and way faster to type, but they’re equally easy for hackers to figure out. Instead try to use longer passwords like “I_Love_Denver_Br0nco5” (repeat after me “I love Denver Broncos”, see how easy it is to remember that phrase?  Oops. I’m sorry, I forgot that I am in Boston now). Such long passwords are easy for you to remember but very hard for a hacker to guess. Better yet, you could also use passphrases that are extremely difficult to guess. Here’s a video with more information on how to use a passphrase to generate stronger passwords:

Jokes aside, please be vigilant and always stay alert. Let’s outsmart the phishing scammers. Did you know that October is the ‘National Cyber Security Awareness’ month? One of the biggest contributions you can make to celebrate the month is to enhance your own information security awareness and beef up your account security. 

 So folks, if you want to breathe (and sleep) easy then why not change your passwords this month as you enjoy the changing weather and the fall colors in New England area? 

Yours Truly, 

Vish Paradkar 


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