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Off-topic, unclassified items from the IT world and surrounding areas.

Passwords

How hard can it be ? Secure passwords can literally make the difference between losing your money and keeping it, but many people still use 1234 or abc123 or 'password'...

Everytime a password database is breached and published by hackers, analysis shows that many people, sometimes a majority, are using really basic passwords. This is asking for trouble, because most of these are written into password cracking tools used by the bad guys, so that even if your password policy is good, and it ought to take many days and years to work through all the combinations, it is meaningless if yours is guessed in the first few seconds because it is too common. However, as you can see from the video below, courtesy of Sophos Labs, it doesn't need to be that difficult to come up with a secure password, and even remember it afterwards. Please see our downloads page for a link to KeePass - a free open source password keeper that is not only highly secure, but can be verified free of backdoors as the code is available for external scrutiny.

Given the power of even relatively low cost computer clusters today we suggest that there isn't really any substitute for length - at least 8 and preferably 12 characters, whether the pattern is predictable or random, is a reasonable defence against basic crackers. If you are protecting high value then more is better.

As was once famously said, "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.", and we beleive this is true of information security, not only national security.

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure.
Windows XP

W When XP was launched, the world of IT looked a little different - a 4Gb hard disc was considered reasonably large, many PC's had 256MB of RAM (0.25GB) and people were still putting telephone handsets in modems to connect to the 'internet'. Many more people used fax than email, and the postal service was growing.

As with Windows8, XP launched into a storm of criticism, predictions of early failure, and pleas for the old versions to be retained. Some things have changed, and some stay the same.

Open Source

O Whatever you may think of recent events surrounding the NSA and issues of government monitoring of communications, one area that gains is the security of the open-source software model. The fact that the code in its entirety can be scrutinised, tested, modified and even reissued gives the best possible confidence that there is no embedded conspiracy.

Having said this, however uncomfortable it feels in peacetime, and however much occasional failures breach individual liberties (which we do not in any way condone), government surveillance is a unfortunate necessity of the world we live in. It is perhaps hard to make the connection between not suffering further events like 7/7 in London and other terrorist atrocities around the world, and the uncomfortable fact of much of our data possibly being scanned, but this is the reality - we actually do need a government scale organisation to protect our way of life.
No Tech Security

N Finally here is an interesting talk on the basics of information security.

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