Saturday, 26 October 2013

How secure are your passwords?

In this non-stop, always-on digital world, it's not unusual for the general public to have a large number of user ID's and passwords for various web sites.  Many sites like Amazon, Ebay and Paypal also hold your credit card details for convenience.

Take this into the business world, and a user can have access to many technical areas on servers all over the place:
  • Databases
  • Platforms/servers
  • Web applications
  • Secure FTP areas
  • Personal computers
  • Mainframe applications

User authentication is extremely important to make sure the right people can conveniently access their systems and services, while preventing unauthorised exploitation.

Companies may choose to give their users a generic user ID that can be used for all of their systems. General public websites often ask users to use their email addresses as user ID's. This puts increased importance on the security of the password for each system. We can use Entropy (my favourite nerd term) to measure of the effectiveness of a password.

Entropy is the level of disorganisation within a collection of related objects or components of a system. So in a password situation, Entropy is used to measure the level of unpredictability between each character of a password. The higher the entropy, the more secure your password is.

There are a few different ways to find out the correct password:
  • Stealing
  • Social engineering (misleading you into divulging your password)
  • Guesswork
  • Brute force
A high entropy sequence of characters will make your password impervious to guesswork and more difficult to gain access through brute force.

Guesswork involves using knowledge of popular passwords, like '1234', 'admin', '9999' etc.

Brute force involves the use of a piece of software that bombards the application with multiple passwords until it finally hits the correct one. So the higher the Entropy of your password, the longer it will take for the program to discover your password.

There are many precautions we can take to secure our information from hackers, governments and thieves. This is the first in a number of articles in which I intent to raise awareness of information security for the normal user, and why we all need to be vigilant in the workplace.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Corporate laughs

Is business intelligence a contradiction in terms? How come so many smart people can often come together to mess things up so badly? Applying cold, hard logic to spontaneous communication can be hilarious. Here are some of my favourite corporate faux pas:

As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday, and employees will receive their cards in two weeks.
(Microsoft Corp. in Redmond WA)

What I need is an exact list of specific unknown problems we might encounter.
(Lykes Lines Shipping)

E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business.
(Accounting manager, Electric Boat Company)

This project is so important we can’t let things that are more important interfere with it.
(Advertising/Marketing manager, United Parcel Service)

Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule.
(Plant Manager, Delco Corporation)

No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We’ve been working on it for months. Now go act busy for a few weeks and I’ll let you know when it’s time to tell them.
(R&D supervisor, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing/3M Corp.)

Quote from the Boss: “Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.
(Marketing executive, Citrix Corporation)

My sister passed away and her funeral was scheduled for Monday. When I told my Boss, he said she died on purpose so that I would have to miss work on the busiest day of the year. He then asked if we could change her burial to Friday. He said, “That would be better for me.(Shipping executive, FTD Florists)

We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.
(Switching supervisor, AT&T Long Lines Division)

 Have a great day.