How to Escape the Password Hell and Protect Your Online Information

Joy Beland

June 29, 2018

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As a 20-year veteran of the IT industry serving small to medium businesses, one of the most frustrating challenges I see is how one tries to keep up with all of the passwords we create and use on websites. To make matters worse, once a PC is compromised, most people don't understand how the hackers were able to get their credit card information that they saved during online shopping.

Most of us like to save our credit cards on certain websites, as the ease and convenience of not having to re-enter that information certainly speeds up the holiday shopping!

That's not what I'm anxious about, although picking reputable sites and using a separate credit card for online shopping is always a great idea. What I'm anxious about is the saving of a credit card within the browser itself (known as saving "form information"). An example of this is Google Chrome, where it can identify you are in a new credit card field, and offers to fill it in for you with a little yellow drop-down that shows a portion of your credit card that it saved from another site.

That means you saved the credit card info in your browser, not the specific website. And you don't want your browsers to hold this important data for you. Why? A few minutes with any number of free tools can give anyone who is using your computer (with or without your knowledge) all of the data you've saved in those browser forms. Yes, including all of your credit card information.

What to do? First, clear the form history and cache for all of your browsers. You can get those instructions just by searching "Clear form data in Chrome," or "Clear form data in Firefox," etc.

Then, sign up for a paid version of a password management tool. I prefer LastPass, which is only $24/year, but other similarly priced and effective options would be Roboform, Dashlane, or 1Password. Some of these have a free option, but come on folks—these are your passwords we're talking about. I say spend the money to get the paid version.

Once you select the password management tool you want to use, you'll love the easy setup. As you come to a website which requires a login, the password management tool will prompt you to save it in that tool, which you can do by saving it with a name that is easy to remember and even file it into a category. You can save the credit cards in these tools, too!

Why is this such a great alternative to storing passwords and credit cards in the browsers? The tools use encryption to store the data, and a simple scan tool on your PC won't spit back websites and logins that are easy to pull out of the browsers. And, the password tools are not limited to just that one PC you're using.

I use LastPass on my work PC, my home iMac, my MacBook laptop, my Surface Laptop, and my iPhone. My stored and encrypted passwords sync from one device to the rest. And, I can pick a particular password and share it within the LastPass software with someone else in my organization.

To make it easy, I buy a LastPass license for each of my employees. I let them store personal and business passwords in LastPass. When they leave our employ, I can turn off access to their LastPass account from my management portal, separate out the ones that are business related, then transfer their "account" to a personal LastPass account for them if they opt to take over paying for it. I consider it a win-win for the business and our staff.

And we NEVER find sticky-notes with passwords around our office. Now that's the best news of all.

Since starting her consulting practice in 1997, Joy's ability to develop solid and creative technology solutions has brought efficiency and affordability to small and medium businesses alike. Joy began her consulting practice with Hebrew Union College (HUC) for eight years. In her first role as network administrator (1997-2004), Joy single-handedly supported five servers and 105 computers. As Joy added more technicians to her team, it enabled her to focus on securing more small business clients, obtain Microsoft Certifications, and align LA IT Girl with the industry's most notable vendor partners. Her extensive experience in implementing business plans, setting and achieving project goals, and developing workflow processes while utilizing the most efficient technology has resulted in bringing far more to the table than just creative technology solutions.

Picking up momentum in early 2015, Joy's focus shifted to cyber security. Her philosophy is that offering protection and peace of mind to her clients is paramount, and continues LA IT Girl's tradition of secure and reliable network support. Joy obtained her Security + certification and trained with the FBI on Ethical Hacking, as well as testing and implementing layers of cyber protection for her own business and her clients.

To address the cybersecurity needs of the community, Joy created Pink Hat Technology Management, a division of LA IT Girl, Inc., to offer security solutions to the small and medium business owners in 2016. Joy's individualized network planning, strict attention to details, concise communications, and service loyalty make her a well-respected and sought-after IT partner for small businesses.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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