Passpack: Protecing Your Passwords Online

Over the years, my password schema has evolved to be more and more complex. With huge, professional services like Sony PlayStation Online and Steam being compromised by hackers, it seems your passwords are not safe anywhere online. This means using the same password for everything you do just isn’t smart. I have essentially three levels of passwords.

Level 1

Totally insecure but easy to remember. This is for all the services that I sign up for on a whim and don’t contain any sensitive information beyond my email. You could argue that I shouldn’t ever use an insecure password, but I’m not too worried about someone hacking my LazyMeter account (task list), for example.

Level 2

Slightly cryptic, but used often enough that I can remember it. This one has a more than 5 characters, a combination of letters, numbers and capitalization. I’ve since added the first two letters of the domain to the beginning, so that the password is unique to each service. This is great for sites that I visit regularly and on multiple devices: home computer, work computer, my phone, etc.

Level 3

Totally random, the more characters the better. I use this tool to get a long, random string for any service that requires my credit card or social security number. You could argue that I should use this level of complexity for all my passwords and so I am heading that direction.

Obviously my brain could never remember a 14 letter random string of letters, numbers and punctuation. Saving this information in a text file on my computer kind of defeats the purpose. Between browsers saving form information and sites leaving cookies, I usually don’t have to type them in. But, what if I login from a different computer, or clear my cache? Or give my login to my wife?

For that, I’ve used Passpack without issue for at least 2 years. Although there is always the risk that someone could compromise Passpack and suddenly have access to all my passwords, I’m actually less worried about that. They use multiple levels of government level security to keep your information safe. I’m much more worried about companies like eBay or Sony who are not only larger targets, but also less worried about your security. With Passpack, that’s pretty much all they do.

I’ve since started using it at work and it has been a boon for productivity. Before we were storing passwords in a database and looking them up with phpMyAdmin. Now that everything is in Passpack, it is easier to search, available remotely, and easily allows us to share individual passwords without giving access to the entire set. This is perfect for remote developers or plain new staff that we don’t quite trust yet to have every password for every client we’ve ever had.

The best part: Passpack is a freemium service. That means the basic account is free and you only pay for access to more storage and other features. For most individual users, the free account is all you need.

My Favorite Forum

Obviously I use Google Reader, I keep up on lots of RSS feeds. I read blogs, news websites, Twitter, all the usual suspects. But by a wide margin, I find the majority of my useful information from a more unexpected source: the Something Awful forums. I was a fan of the website back when it first started and after “lurking” in the forums for a long time I finally bit the bullet and paid the $10 fee to get an official membership. Since then I’ve checked it almost daily, staying up to date on a number of different subjects. That is the wonderful utility of the forums, they have so many members that there is a thread for just about any topic you could imagine.

For web design, I keep the WordPress thread bookmarked at all times. If I ever have a question about themes that Google can’t answer, this is where I go for answers. In fact the whole coding forum has a wealth of useful information.

Since I just bought a new GTI, I keep up on both the VW/Audi Question&Answer Thread and the 2.0 FSI Tuning Thread (that’s the engine). If you have an even remotely sporting car, chances are there’s a thread for your make/model. Sometimes there might even be an official rep from a dealer or manufacturer that chimes in with very useful information.

I’m playing Fantasy Football this year (go USC Boosters!), so I’m now following the Week 1 Sit/Start thread (I’ll have to bookmark week 2, etc.) and Fantasy Football 2010. Even if I have a very specific question about which player I should pick or start/site, its likely that someone else will have the exact same problem and has already asked the question and had it answered. Like I said, there are just so many members of the forum, there is a wealth of useful information available.

Be sure to look for free magazine subscriptions, find some hilarious comedy podcasts to listen to, catch up on what you’ve missed since you stopped collecting Legos, and see some beautiful automobile photography.

Trust me, if you can think of a topic, you’ll probably find it buried somewhere within the Something Awful forums, where a group of nerds are discussing it fervently. I’m sure you’ll lurk for awhile before realizing that $10 is nothing and it will be worth it to get rid of the annoying ads, bad language filter, and have the ability to actually contribute something yourself.

Starting an Online Business

I’ve been doing a lot of research, reading, and thinking about how to make money online. I know its the magical pot of gold that everyone is searching for, but I really feel that with all my knowledge of web design and development I can come up with something that would really fill a niche need and help me start making some passive income. I just don’t know what that is yet. But some great sites that I have found that are helping me are:

  • StartupFreedom.com – this is a blog with a lot of great articles as well as interested video interviews with entrepreneurs who have made it big doing some kind of online business.
  • I Will Teach You To Be Rich – this one is more personal finance, but it does have some great posts on making money online.
  • Mixergy – just started checking this out the other day. It has tons of video interviews (with transcripts) of other successful players in the online money-making business. Its really surprising how many different businesses that you haven’t even heard of are making millions of dollars each year.
  • Killer Startups – a daily list of 15+ ideas for online start ups. This makes for great inspiration.

Listen to a Movie

If you sit at a computer all day, say working in an office like I do, you probably listen to the radio or CDs or podcasts, or something audible in nature to help pass the time. My work involves updating a lot of webpages, which usually consists of adding or deleting a line of text or sometimes messing with fonts and colors. So the majority of my work doesn’t take a lot of deep thinking. This means that I have my headphones on throughout the day. Unfortunately I crave something more engaging than just music. I get enough background music at home and in the car. Rob, Arnie, & Dawn have been my staple audio meal since I discovered they posted MP3s online. Unfortunately I consume their daily handful of clips rather quickly. I listen to PTI whenever they talk about something besides baseball, but that’s still only 20 minutes per day. I already plowed through the Ricky Gervais archives. So what’s left?

I was loading up my musical playlist with disdain until someone linked this wonderful site from the Something Awful forums (which provides all the visual entertainment I need during breaks). The site is called Listen to a Movie and the title is very descriptive of its function. I couldn’t be happier being able to listen to The Big Lewboski while I work. They have also posted a bunch of stand-up comedy DVDs which are perfect for this. The best part is that it’s all free and streams very quickly.