Social media philosophy blog
Monday June 26th 2017

50 ways to steal your password, part 1

“At the risk of being crude, there must be 50 ways to leave your lover,” sang Paul Simon in the 1970s. In the following, I will modernise this into 50 ways to steal your password. This is certainly not my area of expertise, but I know enough to be very scared. As the world seems intent on running like crazy towards the wonders of cloud computing and Internet mobility, I would like to encourage reflection with this homage to Paul Simon: 50 ways to steal your password.

1. Let us start with the most elementary. Many browsers simplify your life by saving your passwords. Those who know how can easily extract both usernames and passwords for all sites where you have saved your password. In Mozilla Firefox this access is conveniently (and ironically) right under the tab for “security”. If you do not put your computer on windows password protection any time you leave it on, it can be easy for someone to sneak a peek and access all you got. This can for instance be done at work. Many leave their computers on and unprotected when going to lunch break. Not the smart thing to do. Let us be paranoid, shall we?
2. Many out of laziness leave their computers on and unprotected overnight. At some workplaces this is even required in order to have the computers accept important updates overnight. Easy for the janitor or your competitor at work to take a peek. They will have your passwords in a minute.
3. You might leave your computer on at home as well. You might be burglarised without knowing it, because this thief knows that there is more money in your passwords then in your homebound property. So, your passwords may be stolen without you really knowing that there’s been a burglary.
4. So far you have been victimised since you have been sloppy with your computer and not activated the Windows password function. Unfortunately, Windows vigilance does not mean safety, only that you are still vulnerable to a slightly more sophisticated brand of criminal. There are a number of ways of cracking the Windows password. Most crudely, you interrupt the start-up routine and from there it is simple to disable the password. In this case, you will notice that the computer has been hacked when you next open it, but your passwords are stolen.
5. And in closing this first round on password theft, the most obvious is for the villain to check under your keyboard. A popular place to save a note with the passwords.

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