Alternatives to Passwords, Please!

Are you one of the millions of people around the world trying to juggle and remember, on average, 25 passwords for a variety of accounts? It is clear that you are not alone nor are you the only one that is frustrated with the technological advancements that are making password strength almost obsolete. Even in 2004, Bill Gates warned that passwords are nearing the limits of their utility, now in 2013, we are seeing this issue in all levels of society.

RubicsIt seems like every website requires a password nowadays and they are only becoming harder and harder to make strong and valid. Not only do we need passwords for online banking and e-mail access but also for mundane things such as job applications and to post videos onto YouTube. With all of these different accounts and associated passwords, it’s becoming a task of its own to remember them, nevertheless remember what accounts they were created for. And now, with the fast paced technological advancements, hackers are finding new ways to guess passwords, giving us more reasons to change up our passwords on a constant basis and create strong passwords the first time to avoid being hacked.

So how do we create passwords strong enough the first time and remember all of them?
Below, I have found a variety of tips for just that…

Try These

  • Long paraphrases – such as a song lyric or movie quote. Once you decide on the lyrics or quote, create the password using the first letter from each word. By doing so, this makes it harder for hackers to guess and also, easier for the user to remember as it’s memorable
  • Tweaking – changing the same password a little bit for each site. This tip suggests using the same password each time so that it is easy to remember but to add a few letters at the end for each site such as fb for Facebook, yt for YouTube, or td for TD Canada Trust
  • Mix – a mix of upper case, lowercase and numbers. UpPeR aNd LoWeR cases take a password one step further in strength.finger

Password Managers –there are strong programs such as Roboform and Lastpass that create strong passwords and remember them for you so you don’t have to.

  •  2 Step Authentication– programs that allow 2 steps of password identification. Most e-mail accounts have the option to not only enter your password but answer an additional question about your personal life that would make it that more difficult for hackers to guess.
  • Store them securely. Don’t store them on your desktop but use an encrypted USB to keep them as far away from the internet and hackers as possible
  • Keep them long – Normally 9 will suffice but longer is better.

Do NOT use…

  • PASSWORD – one in ten users use this as their password.
  • 123456 – CNET’s Declan McCullagh analyzed passwords and found that password was used 780 times and 2,295 times a sequential list of numbers was used.
  • Avoid the dictionary. Mr. Kocher from Whitehat Security stated that hackers will test passwords from the dictionary and if your password is not in that set, they will move on.

So now we have the tips to create and maintain strong passwords but why has this become such an issue in recent years? One would think that with the growing advancements in technology, hackers would find more skills yes, but shouldn’t our computers and programs have the proper security that will detect any unusual activity and reduce the threat of hackers?

It seems unusual but after you read a few of the techniques that I’ve posted below, you might just begin to understand why they are such a threat. Hackers are called hackers for a reason, they are sneaky and will always find a way and now we can see what we are up against.

  • Cluster Boasting– Stricter Consulting Group has just unveiled a password-hacking program that can make 350 billion password guesses every second. It is capable of determining every single 8 character password containing letters, symbols, and numbers.cluster
  • Online Software Tools – there is free online software that uses algorithm search programs that automate password cracking and are so accessible that almost anyone can use them.
  • Website Access – Facebook admitted that hackers have been breaking into hundreds of thousands users accounts every day and that out of one billion log ins to Facebook, 600,000 are imposters trying to access personal information and passwords.
  • John the Ripper – a free password cracking program that allows hackers to test millions of passwords per second using a list of commonly used passwords.

Clearly, with what we’re up against, the tips provided above may not provide us with any strength at all. If hackers have these programs in the palm of their hands, it seems necessary to do away with passwords all together and implement new and more advanced ways of controlling access to our accounts and websites but where do we begin?

Companies have been working hard to invent new alternatives to password use. The most well-known companies that are close to implementing any new technologies are Apple and Google.

The Future…

Apple is planning to release an iPhone that will recognize the owner’s fingerprints by pressing a finger against the handset. This technology would be useful for unlocking phones, and online banking and e-mail accounts.

Google is currently looking into and researching iris scanners that will read the owner’s eyes through the handset. They have also begun researching ring finger authentication that will authorize access to any computer via a tap on the computer and will have all your personal information embedded in this ring. This would be beneficial in situations in which your phone currently has no service connection.

GoogleGoogle is also experimenting with a Yubico cryptographic card that will automatically log a web surfer into Google using a USB. This will include passwords and any crucial information that is sorted by website, so you just log onto the website and plug the USB in and the information will be transferred.

As you can see, alternatives to passwords are already in the works however we may not see any solid changes for another couple of years. Although these advancements seem ideal and problem solvers, there are issues that will arise with these as well and we should investigate ways to work with passwords to maintain the use of these in a safe way. Also, if implemented, each website would have access to very critical information such as your fingerprint and would you trust Facebook with that information? The new technology may also require a costly investment from the users and this would be deemed unappealing in society. That being said, we are definitely in need of an identification system that is unique and difficult to fake and Apple and Google may just have those answers.

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Are You a Distracted Driver?

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With the surge of new technologies and society’s growing reliance on them, distracted driving is something we all need to be aware of. I know from a personal standpoint that I have fallen victim to checking my cell phone for text messages or e-mails, reaching for something in my purse or on the passenger seat, and even changing the track on my iPod, all the while knowing the dangers that may lie ahead. So why do I do it? Why do we all do it?

It has got to be this blase attitude that we have all succumbed to with regards of distracted driving. According to, 99% of licensed drivers state that they are safe drivers yet that same group of drivers admitted to engaging in activities classified as distracted driving, so does this mean we are unsafe drivers all together?

I don’t think so. Humans are becoming wired in a way that makes us feel that, without our technology we aren’t complete, which leads us to multi-tasking our daily activities. This may involve checking our facebook, twitter, e-mails and news while we are brushing our teeth, eating breakfast, and ultimately, in the car on the way to work.text
That being said, we may have mastered the art of multi-tasking and this puts us in the mindset that we will never be put in danger. However, multi-tasking while driving, has been shown to simply be an activity that only puts drivers in harm’s way, which is illustrated through CAA statistics when they state that 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year are impacted by driver distraction.
Despite the current advocates and legislation for distracted driving, which can be found here, society needs to turn this blase attitude into a socially unacceptable topic that will involve serious consequences. It is clear that we have brought up the issue, analyzed it, and implemented charges that will be laid if individuals are found guilty of this, however, I’m not convinced and I don’t think society is either. Perhaps if we make changes like the ones stated below, this societal issue will turn into an issue of the past…

1. Financial Consequences
Financial consequences will play a major role in whether we are able to change the face of this societal issue. Currently in Ontario, fines relating to distracted driving range from $155 to $500 which generally include texting while driving and this act must be seen by a police officer. copsThese fines essentially amount to a slap on the wrist to drivers and will not aid in reducing the amount of distracted drivers. Perhaps increasing these fines will gain the attention of drivers who drive while distracted? Or, the consequences should include a license suspension or the act of impounding cars once the driver is charged. As stated by tougher laws may be met with resistance until the activity becomes a social taboo. This was seen in the 1970’s when new seat belt laws were implemented, the laws were initially met with resistance until society realized the laws were supporting a serious issue. Right now, the current fines are simply not high enough and just by taking a quick 10 minute drive around my city, you can see these fines haven’t made much of an effect.

2. Preventative Technology
After doing some research, I’ve come across 3 new technologies that are being implemented to help combat distracted driving.

  • Driverless Cars – This new technology is currently just emerging but may face some acceptance issues. This is because these cars can steer, accelerate and brake automatically. They can survey the surroundings due to the cameras placed at the front and rear of the car and it also has radars to measure the distance between cars in front and behind it. Does this seem like a good idea to you? Not to me!! If anything I think that these cars will promote MORE distracted driving, taking the attention of drivers off the road and onto the various items in the car. My mind set would be “well I don’t need to steer, or accelerate, or brake… so I might as well text.” And how can law enforcement lay charges for texting while driving in a driverless car when these cars are made to reduce the human errors that we are prone to? We are essentially stating that humans will not change their destructive behaviours so we need to apply technology to the cars that will reduce the liabilities of the drivers. This may not be the best solution to our growing issue.
  • Alcohol Detecting Technology – currently in Boston, researchers at QinetiQ North America are using new technological advances to deter drunk drivers from even being able to start their car. We are all aware of breath detection technologies that are placed in cars after drunk drivers receive DUI’s, however this technology takes it one step further by making the driver provide two validations of being sober or drunk. If this new technology is implemented globally, there will be alcohol detecting sensors placed in the steering wheel which will use the driver’s breath as an indicator and also a finger detector that will use an infrared sensor that would be able to detect whether the person in the passenger seat is leaning over to press the button. blogAlthough, like many technologies, there may be ways to “cheat” the system, by and large, this technology would deter many drivers from having even one drink before getting in their cars at the chance of being stranded where they are and thus reducing distracted driving since drivers know they are being monitored.
  • Speed Monitoring Technology – We’ve seen how smart phones make the act of driving easier, using GPS’s and voice activated controls, however this device has taken this one step further. By installing a device into the family car, parents are able to monitor the top speed their child reached, where they went during the day, and if they ever had to press the breaks suddenly. This gives parents the opportunity to speak to their children when they believe they may have been putting themselves or others around them in danger. I think this technology is of highest reliability against distracted driving, especially to be used with young, inexperienced drivers who may not understand how driving can be a very dangerous act.

3. Individual Behaviour
On top of all the research and new technologies being introduced, I think the most pressing issue with distracted driving lies in how we, as individuals, act during driving. We need to make changes and CAA has offered a variety of tips to eliminate distracted driving:

– Eat or drink before you get in your car
– Turn off your cell phone or put it away
– Prepare playlists or choose your CD before you start driving
– Review maps and directions before leaving the house

If we are able to put extra time aside to prepare our driving trips, distractions will be greatly reduced and we will have more time to focus on the road and what’s around us. Or maybe if we had more awareness commercials such as this, distracted driving will become an issue of the past.

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The New Generation of Bullying; Cyber Bullying

Nerd. Loser. Ugly. Too pretty. Fat. Skinny…
We are all aware that this is what bullying entails. We grew up with it whether we were being bullied or being the bully’s ourselves. But what the generations now are being faced with has gone beyond simple name calling and it’s had devastating effects.
With mobile devices, laptops, and handhelds, the internet is at our fingertips at all times and cyberbullying, or internet bullying, is taking a full-time position in the lives of our youth and young adults. According to Bullying Statistics “Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet” and yet despite all of the campaigning and support, we still have such an uphill battle towards the end of bullying.
So are humans the real issue here or is it the presence of the internet?

How It Begins

Bullying almost always begins on the playground and, for this reason, I’ve always believed that bullying will be around forever. It is a part of our childhood that we have all endured or witnessed and for many, it helps to provide a thicker skin for what life will throw at us next. At the time, bullying seems very harmless, the bully simply trying to impress friends and the bullied hoping and praying it will pass. Unfortunately, for this situation, kids tend to live in the moment, they know bullying is wrong from a moral stand point from mom and dad’s lectures on being a nice person but they don’t have long-term views. They simply can’t comprehend how this may affect a person for many years to come and this may be why it’s been a hard battle to fight this growing problem. Personally, bullying was not a major issue that I was faced with, but, like almost every person I know, there was the odd name calling fight or argument over MSN Chat. However, these always seemed to turn into popularity contests that simply left one group of girls hating another or one boy dumping a girl for another girl until we all were friends again.
So why are some cases so devastating, leading to some individuals committing suicide?

How The Internet Is Playing a Role

Before the popularity of the internet and cell phones, bullying was generally isolated to school hours and kids were able to find a safe place at home where they felt loved. Presently, the internet has given bullies the opportunity to now continue the harassing outside of school hours and to remove the safety net that kids find when they get home. Bullying Statistics also found that approximately 80% of teens use their cell phones on a regular basis and with the popularity of technology, will only continue to rise.
Aside from the common name calling, these are some of the common ways cyberbullying occurs:

  • Using cell phones, e-mail, or social websites (Facebook, Twitter) to spread rumours
  • Pretending to be someone else online to hurt or embarrass another person
  • Taking photos of someone for the purpose of spreading them around social channels

Often times, kids can’t escape these offenses and they may have to take drastic measures to remove the false information or photos of themselves from these channels. Furthermore, with the presence of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, damaging information will spread faster than word of mouth would have previously travelled. The escape is no longer simply staying home from school for a couple of days. To put the effect internet has had on bullying into perspective, we must all remember the horrific story of Amanda Todd’s suicide as a result of online bullying. Just a few days before she made the decision to end her life, she posted a YouTube video announcing exactly how she had been bullied and the results.

Instances such as these obviously spark the demand for support, love, and caring towards all individuals who are the victims of bullying, however, the talk must continue. We all have a voice; it’s just whether or not we choose to use it.

Bullying Has No Age or Gender

We are all aware that the majority of bullying happens during the younger stages of our lives. It is the young adults that are becoming depressed, anxious, and in some cases, have committed suicide, or bullycide. However, Covenant Eyes has shown that it ranges from boys to girls to different age groups, stating that 38% of girls, 26% of boys and 41% of older girls aged 15-17 have reported being bullied online.
imagesCAFRUUTTIgnoring the usual image of bullying we all have that takes place in the school yard with the bigger kid fighting for the smaller kids lunch money, we are all also aware that bullying is present in the workplace, on online dating sites, and in senior homes. I have personally proven myself wrong with the myth that bullying will be absent from my life as I grow older. Although it has significantly diminished, there is still gossip, name calling, and rumours that I have been faced with during my University career and it doesn’t surprise me to see a story on the news illustrating workplace harassment or elder abuse situations. Our aggressive and vindictive characteristics that were apparent at young ages cannot simply disappear with age. We simply must learn to better control these behaviours and, in most instances, adults can do so however, many cannot as well.

A real life example that fuels this myth that bullying has no age or gender is the recent scandal involving Manti Te’o, the American Notre Dame NFL football player. Although speculation exists, Manti is stating that he was a victim of a ruthless crime and online harassment that involved someone pretending to be a girl online and lure Te’o into a long-term relationship. He was unaware of this hoax until the death of his said girlfriend was investigated, only to reveal that she did not, in fact, exist. Putting my personal feelings aside as to what a “relationship” consists of, this man was allegedly led to believe that he and this woman were in love and that she was real. He was embarrassed in front of the world and has to begin to rebuild not only himself but his career that is, no doubt, damaged; not quite the tough football player persona that everyone assumed he had.

To summarize, we must not pigeon hole this important issue. Even the people who you think could never be bullied or be a bully could be the exact opposite of who you think they are. We must continue to support all aspects of cyber bullying.

Combating Cyberbullying

Parents or friends must always be aware of warning signs, whether or not you believe your child or friend could be a victim of bullying. As we have seen, in cases like Amanda Todd’s, victims are often fighting an internal struggle and are too afraid or embarrassed to seek help. Some warnings signs that were laid out by Convenant Eyes include:

“•appearing sad, moody, or anxious
•avoiding school
•withdrawing from social activities
•experiencing a drop in grades
•appearing upset after using the computer
•appearing upset after viewing a text message”

Speaking personally, always having a close relationship with my parents has helped my combat many obstacles in life. Many times, when I did not necessarily want to speak to my parents about an issue at school or with my friends, my parents would see these warning signs and ask me to share information with them. They always reassured me that they would be there to help and they always were. Do I think that they made my childhood, growing up, and going to University easier? Definitely. Having a support system will always add to one’s happiness.

To summarize, despite the devastating effects the internet has had on the number of bullying instances, it has also provided immense channels of support and self-expression. Victims of bullying can rely on the internet as a source of help through websites dedicated to bullying support such as Bullying Canada, hotlines such as Kids Help Phone, or even uplifting websites such as Imgur or YouTube that allow for individuals going through the same situations to find each other. TV stations are also playing commercials to promote awareness of bullying and how to get help.

Yes, the internet has played a large role in the increase of bullying, and in turn, cyber bullying. But it has also provided so many personal outlets that individuals can use as coping mechanisms. In fact, Cybersmile is the first charity that is dedicated to the victims of cyberbullying. They believe that the internet has now grown into a public space and that individuals involved in any online bullying crimes should be punished by law. Clearly, this issue will grow as technology increases and individuals are more reliant on the technology they possess, however, the more technology grows, the more awareness and support we are provided with at our fingertips.

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