Open, [email protected]!’ The value of changing your passwords

Between remembering exams dates and when to do laundry, students have enough on their mind. Keeping track of multiple passwords for all their online activities can make things even more complicated.

Many students don’t believe they are in danger of having their passwords stolen. One such student, Christy Danford, never changes her passwords.

“I believe that [my passwords] are so unguessable that I have no need to change them,” Danford said.

Danford also said she uses different variations of the same password in order to better remember them.

However, computer security and upkeep of passwords is becoming even more important as more and more people give out personal information on Web sites.

“It could be very easy [to steal a password] depending on the practices and activities of the person,” said Bruce Petryshak, chief information officer.

For example, it never is a good idea to save passwords to your Web browser in order to save time.

“[Saving passwords] makes it easier for you, but it also makes it easier for someone else,” Petryshak said.

Another bad idea is to visit Web sites that need one’s private information using an unsecured wireless network.

“An unsecured wireless network is like a radio broadcast,” said Kent Strickland, information security officer.

Not all Web sites will ask for personal information or passwords in order for people to proceed with the site’s services.

It’s important for people to pay attention to and distinguish which store important personal information versus sites that keep only an e-mail address or a name.

“Guard passwords where sites have large amounts of identity information. If you have sensitive information on your computer or somewhere, each password should be unique,” Strickland said.

Students also need to be aware that the longer they keep a password, the easier it becomes for someone to figure it out.

“If you have a Web site that doesn’t encrypt information, it’s a good idea to change that password often,” Strickland said.

Not everyone has the time or patience, though, to keep passwords updated.

“It’s a good idea to change your passwords frequently, but that sometimes become complicated,” Strickland said.

There are ways, however, to make it easier.

Petryshak recommended keeping a special encrypted folder on the computer that contains any private information.

“Windows Vista has an encryption tool built into the operating system,” Petryshak said.

Students can also obtain software from companies, such as PGP Corporation, to encrypt documents.

If a computer were to get hacked, information within an encrypted folder would be safe, Petryshak said.

ITS offers a large amount of information for students who want to keep themselves protected.

They recommend students not keep paper copies of their passwords, change passwords every 90 days and not use obvious passwords, such as license plate numbers.

If students wish to check the strength of any of their current passwords, they can visit the Microsoft password checker at

Students interested in learning more about computer security and privacy can visit the ITS Web site for privacy and security at