It seems that online security will take another turn for worst this year (unless Microsoft's new Windows Vista OS has taken security to a whole new level, which I doubt), with criminals finding even more scams and loopholes with which to try and part us from our money. Generally speaking all the scaremongering is hot air, although it does serve the purpose of getting IT secruity into the public conscience and onto the front page. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of people out there trying to trick you into giving away personal details and it's a very serious topic, but simple precautions should stop you from having to lay awake at night with worry. I've mentioned various things that, I believe, have kept me safe for many years in posts before. I can also agree with the 'prevention is better than cure' philosophy too.
Needless to say, I was horrified when I found out that my mum stores her passwords in plain text in a word document. We can all understand the need to keep passwords written down, we're all drowning in a sea of website registrations, PIN numbers and IDs, but for pity's sake, keep them safe! There are plenty of bits of software available that can help you store user IDs and passwords safely so you never forget them and always have them at hand when you're in a rush (as I usually am). For many years I have used a bit of software called Access Manager, I got it on one of those free CDs that come on the front of PC mags. They still offer it completely free for non-commercial/personal use, download it here. Though there is a paid version with some useful extra features. Needless to say, it doesn't just store details for online accounts, put any personal data in there and it'll securely lock it away until you need it. It even has the ability to create secure passwords, for those people who keep using the same one over and over or use their kid's names. Picking a secure password is important, with processing power advancing as fast as it is it's perfectly possible to guess passwords by shear brute force. Another useful feature is that you can copy and paste your passwords with a couple of clicks, which helps eliminate any risk of key logger software (software that records each keystroke you make and sends it to someone who can then use it to read your passwords). I've tried lots of different bits of software for this but none compares for ease of use and it just seems to make sense, if you see what I'm saying. The only feature I can think it lacks is some sort of online integration so that I can get at all them passwords anywhere I am and maybe backup my list somewhere I can't wipe it out, but you can't have everything.
The good news is that, despite all the headline kafuffle (I find myself using that phrase a lot recently, I blame David Walliams), the weakest part of the system is you, the user. I was watching a TV programme recently where someone acting as a survey taker (those people with clipboards that prowl the highstreet) was asking various questions and ended up asking for people's account numbers and sort codes, and these people were giving them out, not just one or two either. If they'll do that in public, imagine what they'll do to an email that look legit? Just remember folks, if it looks suspicious, if it's from someone you never heard of, if it's unexpected and if it requests confidential details in any way, don't trust it!