Friday, December 4, 2020

Your Password Isn't as Strong as You Think It Is - And Other Lessons in Cyber Safety

Last night I got an email from a former colleague who I hadn't heard from in a while. The email didn't have a subject line and simply read "Here's the summary for Monday" and a PDF was attached. My Spidey Senses were triggered and I deleted the email without viewing the PDF. Obviously, his old email account was compromised. Unfortunately, this kind of attack works too often which is why nefarious characters keep using them. 

There are at least three lessons to take away from the email that I received last night and the ones like them that land in inboxes everywhere every day. First, if you have an email account that you no longer use, close it. Second, use secure, complex passwords passphrases. Third, if you get an email that you think is suspicious, delete it. 

How Easy It Is To Crack Your Password

This is a video in which Kevin Mitnick explains why your "clever" use of "@" in place of "a" in your password isn't fooling anyone. He demonstrates how quickly hackers can crack passwords and explains why you should use passphrases along with two-factor authentication. 

Beware of Social Engineering
I showed this video, another one featuring Kevin Mitnick, to my networking students a couple of weeks ago and they laughed at how gullible the people were who fell for the social engineering attack. Don't be the security manager from Motorola. 

Kevin Mitnick was one of the most wanted hackers in the world in the 1980's and 1990's. His autobiography, Ghost in the Wires, is a fascinating read for anyone who is interested in the world of hacking. He's now a security consultant for a firm called KnowBe4 and he published The Art of Invisibility which is about how to minimize and protect your digital footprints.

Another Good Word Cloud Generator

A couple of weeks ago I shared an overview of seven good tools for creating word clouds. This week a new word cloud tool was launched on Product Hunt so I gave it a try. The new tool is called Free Word Cloud Generator and it's exactly that, a free word cloud generator. 

Using Free Word Cloud Generator is easy. You simply go to the site, paste in a chunk of text, and then click "visualize." Your word cloud can be downloaded as a PNG or JPEG file. There are options to exclude numbers and special characters from your word cloud. You can also change the font type, color, and display density. 

Applications for Education
Free Word Cloud Generator doesn't require users to register. In fact, there doesn't appear to be an option to register. That should make the tool a little easier for some students to use compared to other word cloud tools. In general, word cloud tools like Free Word Cloud Generator are good for helping students identify the most frequently used words in passages of text they are reading and or writing. In the context of analyzing their own writing word clouds can help students identify words or phrases that they might be using a little too often.

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