Block and tackle

Truth is out there; so are the baddies. Photo: Louie DouvisThis humble column is pretty sure the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) Boundless Informant tool, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Unit 61398 or any other instrument of cyber-intelligence gathering has not wasted much valuable time intercepting our everyday communications, but we must acknowledge, of late, a feeling of a little more paranoia than usual.

This might be the cumulative effect of the coverage of revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden of rampant NSA data mining. Or it could be an effect of the growing frequency of pop-up alerts that one of our defensive shields, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware PRO, displays whenever it catches some roving marauder threatening our digital perimeter.

We use the $24.95 PRO edition rather than the quite good free version available from malwarebytes杭州夜生活. Despite an errant update that disabled several thousand PCs around the world a couple of months ago – together with the Webroot Secure Anywhere anti-virus package ($US39.99 at webroot杭州夜生活m), the PRO edition helps us control those anxious feelings we so often experience as a result of our regular visits to the blogs and forums that track the activities of malevolent hackers.

However, when we reviewed our security measures recently, we decided a couple of things needed improvement.

The most pressing was that, like many users, we are finding the task of using unique strong passwords on the many different sites and services that we use completely beyond our cognitive capabilities.

Over the years we have tried various alternatives, including RoboForm, LastPass and 1Password. Last week, an American newspaper columnist reported that another contender, Dashlane, had upgraded its free package recently.

Dashlane works on PCs and Macs, Android devices and the iPhone. Unfortunately, there is not yet a version for the iPad.

The attraction of Dashlane is it generates and remembers strong passwords. It also automatically logs you in and fills in web forms with your details.

Some of its competitors do the same thing and although we have had some slight teething problems with Dashlane, some of its other features make it particularly appealing. It remembers details of your credit cards, shows you graphic images of them – and your PayPal details – and fills in the details, such as the security code, automatically.

Even better, when you buy something online, Dashlane keeps a copy of the receipt. Most users will probably be happy with the free version from dashlane杭州夜生活m, but we’ve decided to pay $US19.99 a year for the premium version. The premium version syncs across all our different devices automatically and creates an encrypted back-up that allows easy restoration if we lose or replace one of them.

Dashlane also supports two-factor authentication, a security process in which the user provides two means of identification. This is something we have decided to implement wherever possible.

We have also installed the Google Authenticator app on the Samsung Galaxy S4. It is, in essence, a digital version of the authentication tokens that many financial institutions issue to customers. It provides a six-digit number. This number is required should anyone attempt to change the username and password on any of our Google accounts.

Two-factor authentication works on the principle of requiring ”something you know”, such as your password or a PIN, and ”something you have”, your smartphone or a token.

We highly recommend that readers consider applying the two-factor authentication to their most sensitive accounts.

We are using it with our Gmail account and our indispensable Evernote database. We have done the same with Facebook and Dropbox. It can also be applied to WordPress blogs.

Using two-factor authentication has a downside. Once installed, you’ll find it takes just that little bit longer to log in – particularly if, like Bleeding Edge, you occasionally lose track of your phone.

But as with locking your phone, iPad or Android tablet with a PIN or a password, the inconvenience is a tiny price to pay for the reduction in anxiety, particularly when you consider somebody stealing your identity and gaining access to your financial or other important data.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.