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Take Control of Your Passwords, 2nd Edition

Book Description

Overcome password frustration with Joe Kissell's expert advice!

Passwords have become a truly maddening aspect of modern life, but with this book, you can discover how the experts handle all manner of password situations, including multi-factor authentication that can protect you even if a company's password file is stolen and hacked.

The book explains what makes a password secure and helps you create a strategy that includes using a password manager, working with oddball security questions like "what is your pet's favorite movie?", and making sure your passwords are always available when needed.

Joe helps you choose a password manager (or switch to a better one) in a chapter that discusses desirable features and describes a dozen different apps, with a focus on those that work in OS X, iOS, Windows, and Android. The book also looks at how you can audit your passwords to keep them in tip-top shape, use two-step verification and two-factor authentication, and deal with situations where a password manager can't help.

The book closes with an appendix on helping a relative set up a reasonable password strategy for those whose relatives have distressing password strategies, and an extended explanation of password entropy for those who want to consider the math behind passwords.

Teach This Book! Once you're satisfied with your password strategy, you may want to help others improve theirs with one-on-one training or a group presentation. To help you, this book includes links to a downloadable one-page PDF handout and to a PDF-based slide deck about passwords.

"Awesome. You did an amazing job breaking it down. This should be mandatory reading." -Rich Mogull, CEO at Securosis

This book helps you overcome frustrations that arise when attempting to design a strategy for dealing with the following password problems:

  • 9-character passwords with upper- and lowercase letters, digits, and punctuation are not strong enough.

  • You cannot turn a so-so password into a great one by tacking a punctuation character and number on the end.

  • It is not safe to use the same password everywhere, even if it's a great password.

  • A password is not immune to automated cracking because there's a delay between login attempts.

  • Even if you're an ordinary person without valuable data, your account may still be hacked, causing you problems.

  • You cannot manually devise "random" passwords that will defeat potential attackers.

  • Just because a password doesn't appear in a dictionary, that does not necessarily mean that it's adequate.

  • It is not a smart idea to change your passwords every month.

  • Truthfully answering security questions like "What is your mother's maiden name?" does not keep your data more secure.

  • Adding a character to a 10-character password does not make it 10 percent stronger.

  • Easy-to-remember passwords like "correct horse battery staple" will not solve all your password problems.

  • All password managers are not pretty much the same.

  • Your passwords will not be safest if you never write them down and keep them only in your head.

"Joe handles a confusing and scary subject more clearly and calmly than I would have thought possible. I'll be recommending this book to just about everybody I know." -William Porter, database developer, author, photographer

Table of Contents

  1. Read Me First
    1. Updates and More
    2. Basics
    3. What’s New in the Second Edition
  2. Introduction
  3. Passwords Quick Start
  4. Understand the Problems with Passwords
    1. Simple for You, Simple for Them
    2. The One and the Many
    3. The Major Threats
    4. Timeworn Tricks
    5. Usernames and Passwords: an Outdated Model
  5. Learn about Password Security
    1. What Makes a Good Password?
    2. All about Entropy
    3. Why a Great Password Isn’t Enough
    4. Understanding Security Questions and Reset Procedures
    5. Multi-factor Authentication
    6. Authenticating with Another Site’s Credentials
  6. Apply Joe’s Password Strategy
    1. Figure Out Which Passwords You Must Memorize
    2. Create Strong but Memorable Passwords
    3. Use a Password Manager for Everything Else
    4. Handle Security Questions
    5. Manage Email Options
    6. Deal with Exceptions and Surprises
  7. Pick a Password Manager
    1. Features to Look For
    2. Example Password Managers
    3. Joe’s Recommendations
  8. Keep Your Passwords Secure
    1. Avoid the “Weakest Link” Problem
    2. Use Wireless Networks Safely
    3. Back Up Your Passwords
    4. Prepare an Emergency Password Plan
  9. Audit Your Passwords
    1. Understand the Overall Process
    2. Look for Weak Passwords
    3. Triage Your Passwords
    4. Update a Password
  10. Appendix A: Use Two-factor Authentication
    1. Two-step Verification Basics
    2. Use Apple’s Two-step Verification
    3. Use Apple’s Two-factor Authentication
    4. Use Dropbox’s Two-step Verification
    5. Use Facebook’s Two-step Verification
    6. Use Google’s Two-step Verification
    7. Use Microsoft’s Two-step Verification
    8. Use Twitter’s Two-step Verification
  11. Appendix B: Help Your Uncle with His Passwords
    1. Password Manager Compromises
    2. Password Reuse Compromises
    3. Password Complexity Compromises
  12. Appendix C: Calculate Password Strength
    1. The Entropy Formula
    2. An Aside: Doing Math with Google
    3. Why That Entropy Formula Is Wrong
    4. Back to zxcvbn
    5. Password Strength Summary
    6. For Further Reading
  13. Teach This Book
  14. About This Book
    1. Ebook Extras
    2. About the Author
    3. About the Publisher
  15. Copyright and Fine Print