Authentication and Passwords 101 (Yes, You Need Both!)

  Your accounts and platforms should involve multiple layers of security. The first, basic layer is a username and password. Even if you have a strong password (congrats if you do, read this post on password managers if you don’t), for more security, consider additional layers of protection and authentication. Let’s define some terms that Read More

 

Barbara Trapp and digital authentication typesYour accounts and platforms should involve multiple layers of security. The first, basic layer is a username and password. Even if you have a strong password (congrats if you do, read this post on password managers if you don’t), for more security, consider additional layers of protection and authentication.

Let’s define some terms that have gotten many, including me, confused. First, the terms “authentication” and “verification” are used interchangeably, so consider Two-Step Authentication and Two-Step Verification the same.

Authentication is proven by three different types of authentication factors:

  • What you know: Password, PIN, answer to a security question
  • What you have: Phone or other device you can retrieve a code from
  • Who you are: Biometrics such as facial recognition, iris, fingerprint

Two-Step Authentication (2SA)

This refers to two things you know, such as a password, PIN, security answer, and/or email confirmation which you could receive on any device, not just your phone. If you must provide three pieces of information (still just one type of authentication) it would be 3SA.

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

This refers to exactly two different types of authentication, such as one thing you know and one thing you have, like a password and a phone to retrieve a code from. This makes it 2FA.

Now – grab your coffee or tea…

If you provide a password and answer a security question (what you know) and then receive a push notification from your phone (what you have), it is considered 3SA because there were three things. But, this is also just 2FA because there were just two types used (two things you know and one thing you have). Got it? Good!

A 2FA combination of a password and phone is a safe option unless…someone has access to your password and phone. A “who you are” type of authentication, such as a fingerprint scan or facial recognition technology, provides even more security. 

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Don’t be confused by this one. MFA just refers to at least two or more types of authentication. This could be 2FA, 3FA, 4FA (think James Bond), etc. For example, a password, a push notification on your phone, and then a fingerprint provides three-factor authentication (3FA). 

Whew! To summarize, use at least 2FA whenever possible, and the more layers the better. Three things are three layers or levels of protection, which is better than just a username and password!

Passwords

Now about your passwords… Are they reused? Are they short or long? Are they weak or strong?  I’m channeling Dr. Seuss here to lighten up this brain-melting topic. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to create secure passwords you can remember. The bad news is they really all need to be different and updated on a regular basis. And you need to be able to access them whereever you are, right?

So, how do you keep track of it all? This post about password managers can help you organize and strengthen your login information.  I know I’m repeating myself, but I feel that strongly about everyone having a good system in place to ward off and thwart hackers and other not-so-nice people who could cause chaos by gaining access to your digital life. 

Speaking of chaos…

Are you overwhelmed by digital clutter? Organizing your digital life is just as important as organizing your kitchen, closets, or office. My digital organizing services can help you declutter your mind and help you be more efficient and productive.  I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire! Schedule your free consult here.

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)

Improve Your Cybersecurity with These 6 Things

  I am a LastPass affiliate and may receive a small commission if you use my referral link, but it will not cost you more if you do. Organizing your digital life is just as important as organizing your kitchen, closets, or office. That includes protecting your digital files, documents, platforms, and accounts by following Read More

 
I am a LastPass affiliate and may receive a small commission if you use my referral link, but it will not cost you more if you do.

Overhead view of hands at computer keyboardOrganizing your digital life is just as important as organizing your kitchen, closets, or office. That includes protecting your digital files, documents, platforms, and accounts by following good cybersecurity practices. 

Here are 6 things to do to improve your cybersecurity:

  1. Don’t answer social media questions like, “What was the first car you ever owned?” or “What was the name of your first pet?” This information is often used for answers to security questions.
  2. If you are using public WIFI and suddenly everyone gets booted off the network, do not rejoin. A hacker may be at work, gaining access as users log back on.
  3. If you make up answers to security questions, write them down. Better yet, store your security questions and answers in the notes section of an online password management system.
  4. Change your passwords at least every six months to a year.
  5. If you use a third-party password manager, you’ll need a “master” password. This is the one password you must write down and keep in a safe place.
  6. A password can be strong and still readable. Let’s dig into this…

Did you know spaces are considered characters? This means you can create a strong password that is easy to remember and feels natural to type. Consider a memorable phrase such as:

My cat writes B00ks!

This example has 20 characters, two numbers (zeros), upper- and lower-case letters, and a special character. It’s easy to remember, but hard to crack!

Here’s another example:

86 the Steak & Cardboard!

This example has 24 characters, two numbers, upper- and lower-case letters, and two special characters. 

Online Password Managers

As much fun as it now is to create a memorable and safer password, you still shouldn’t reuse them. This is why I recommend a third-party online password manager. Then you only need to manage and update ONE awesome master password, and let the app do the rest. My favorite tool, and the one many cybersecurity experts I’ve spoken with recommend, is LastPass and you can get it here.

LastPass encrypts your data as you type it and sends it to the cloud. It’s stored on company servers behind a physical wall with security. They cannot see your passwords, nor can they retrieve your master password. That’s why you need to write that password down and keep it in a safe place! For more on password management systems, both online and paper, refer to my previous post, Get a Password Manager and Get Organized!

Let’s Organize Your Digital Life

Your assignment:

  • Review your passwords and make them easier to remember, but  harder to crack.
  • Share these password tips with elderly friends and family members.

Overwhelmed with digital clutter? Organizing your digital life is just as important as organizing your kitchen, closets, or office. My digital organizing services can help you declutter your mind and help you be more efficient and productive. Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me or schedule your free consult. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)

3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos

  3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos During a virtual meeting with my team, my laptop was running loud and slow. While I struggled to share my screen over the noise of my fan, one of my virtual assistants suggested I might have too many tabs open. “Who ME????” Yes, ME. Whether Read More

 

3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos

Beige desk with phone, laptop, planner. 3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos

During a virtual meeting with my team, my laptop was running loud and slow. While I struggled to share my screen over the noise of my fan, one of my virtual assistants suggested I might have too many tabs open. “Who ME????” Yes, ME.

Whether or not you faithfully use a digital or paper planner, you might have some unrecorded and tasks lurking in hidden places. Here are three unexpected places to look for your important to-dos and tips for managing them.

Browsers

Although I am a professional organizer and help people organize their digital lives, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with tab-mania myself. A single project might require opening up multiple tabs to access programs, do some research, and keep up with email and virtual meetings. As I move through tasks, those tabs multiply and often don’t get closed in a timely manner.

On this occasion, so many tabs were open in my browser that I couldn’t even make out the favicons, those tiny branding images on browser tabs. In fact, a click of the drop-down arrow at the end of the row showed even more tabs open.

As soon as we finished our meeting, I started clicking and closing tabs. I also found myself writing in my planner. One tab reminded me I needed to finish some research. Another prompted an idea for a yet-to-be-written blog post. And yet another was a PDF of an online receipt I needed to save. Those tabs were important to-dos! Anything that took just a few minutes ago, I took care of immediately.

Perhaps neglected open tabs in your browser are unrecorded tasks for your to-do list. Like a tactful Apple store employee once told me, “Just like you need rest, so does your laptop. Turn it off at night.”

So I challenge you: Every night for a week, close all your tabs. That’s right, all of them. You can “pin” those you use daily (right-click on the tab) so they open when you restart your computer, or bookmark them so you don’t need to search. Either way, you will save time. Wait, did you catch the word, restart? Yes, shut that baby down for the night.

TIPS:
  • If you are not already doing so on a regular basis, pick one day a week to check for and run program updates, clear out cookies and caches (see the settings for your browser).
  • Check your device’s trash or recycle bin for items that can be permanently deleted. Until you do, items still take up space.
  • Check your device’s battery life and available storage. I can’t cover directions for all types here, but you can find them by searching for “how to check battery health/available storage on _____.”

Your browser is just one place your important to-do’s might be hiding. Here are two more places:

Voicemails

Occasionally my voicemail is full and I have to clear it out. Every single message is something I need to do. The car repair shop now has a part that I’ve been waiting on, so I need to schedule a an appointment. My mother sang “Happy Birthday” on another message and I want to save it to my cloud storage. Another message reminds a prescription is ready for pickup. That’s an errand to the pharmacy. All of these are tasks that need to go on my list of important to-dos.

TIPS:
  • If your phone had to be reset and you lost your voicemails, are there any you would be sad about losing? Download happy-memory messages you want to save to cloud storage. I am so happy I downloaded voicemails of my parents serenading me with “Happy Birthday” together. Since my father passed away, it is a comforting memento.
  • Check your voicemail greeting. You may wish to say something different or rerecord using a better microphone.
  • When you delete messages, they might still exist in a deleted folder. Empty the deleted folder to make room on your device.

Scraps of paper

If you frequently write on sticky notes, scraps of paper, and/or notepads, then you might be  a “paper planner” person. As much as I love technology for its efficiency, I use Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner to keep track of my important to-dos. I love the feel of pen-to-paper and checking things off with a flourish. Clicking and swiping on a to-do app just doesn’t give me the same satisfaction, no matter how nice the interface is.

Sometimes I catch myself writing on sticky notes or notepads when on calls or webinars. I make a point of checking for these hidden to-dos on my desk at least weekly, putting them in the right spot in my planner. Often I make these temporary notes because I’m not quite sure when or if I am going to tackle them. The solution for this is a “grasscatcher list,” a master list of to-dos that aren’t urgent but shouldn’t be forgotten. Mine is in the back of my quarterly planner and I do a serious list sweep monthly and quarterly to weed that list down. David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system refers to this as a “Someday Maybe” list. 

TIPS:
  • If you must write on a scrap of paper in a pinch, add the date. This will give you some frame of reference for what the note was about, if it is still relevant or even needed, when you come across it.
  • Before phone calls and meetings, determine the best place to record notes. I prefer paper planners with a two-page daily spread that includes a notes page for this reason. For client consultations, I have an intake form ready. The same goes for virtual coffees. I love using forms and creating them for my clients!
  • Use traditional phone message pads with a carbon copy feature to record voicemails and take calls. Fill in all the prompts for information. This can clear up half of your random note clutter!

Summary

Open browser tabs, voicemails, and scraps of paper are just a few of the unexpected places to look for your important to-dos. This digital and paper clutter can be prompts for tasks and they can pile up if not dealt with. Take care of them immediately or record in your planning system. Better yet, if not needed, delegate or discard.

Three things to do on a regular basis (think daily, every other day, or at least weekly):
  • Check your browser for open tabs and close them. If you need to access certain sites regularly, pin them or bookmark them.
  • Check your voicemail and clean it out, or at least add them to your to-do list and delete messages as you take care of them.
  • Corral loose notes and record them where they will be most useful.

With all your browser tabs closed, your voicemails cleared, and random notes recorded, you will get a good night’s sleep, and so will your laptop.

So, how many tabs are open on your device as you read this?

Need help with organizing your digital life? Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me or schedule your free consult. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

Get a Password Manager and Get Organized!

Note: This post includes referral links and although clicking on them won’t cost you more, as an Amazon Associate and LastPass affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. You Need a Password Manager “It’s on a piece of paper somewhere. Maybe the back of an envelope or a Post-it note? Where is it?!” And so begins Read More

Note: This post includes referral links and although clicking on them won’t cost you more, as an Amazon Associate and LastPass affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

You Need a Password Manager

Colorful sticky notes on laptop keyboard
You need a password manager!

“It’s on a piece of paper somewhere. Maybe the back of an envelope or a Post-it note? Where is it?!” And so begins the typical search for an elusive password. Eventually, we find it, or give up and create a new one. And that one is hastily scribbled on a small piece of paper, or added to a sheet filled with other user names and passwords, some crossed out and with question marks. I am impressed by how much writing can fit on one page. Words fill the margins, some crossed out and erased, while others swirl around the corners as if in a vortex.

When I work with clients, friends, parents, and other family members, password discovery and recovery is often a time-consuming part of my digital organizing* work. It is frustrating for all when our momentum is stymied by having to stop and search, wait for reset emails to arrive in the inbox, and enter codes and answers to secret questions. But more importantly, weak or overused passwords increase the risk of information and identity being stolen. I always recommend a password manager of some type.

*Digital organizing is streamlining and decluttering your computer and digital workspace such as online accounts, email, document storage systems, photos, spreadsheets, basic word processing, etc.

Everyone needs a password management system, whether paper or online. My preference is an online system, but if you prefer paper, consider a logbook made for that purpose. Please avoid these:

  • A blank notebook. If you handwrite passwords, make it as easy as possible by having templates that include space for a website URL, user name, password, and notes (for security answers, and PINs). If you are in a hurry, you might miss something if you have to write the prompts.
  • Random pieces of paper (this is a habit to break!)
  • Excel or Word (or any other spreadsheet or word processing program). If you are worried about a vetted online password manager being easily hacked, do not try to create your own.

Here are the pros and cons of password logbooks and online password managers:

Password Logbook

What it is:

An organized notebook with templates for storing passwords, similar to an address book. Most have a removable cover to make it unidentifiable.

Pros:
  • Paper can’t be hacked; just keep it in a safe place.
  • If you are not comfortable with technology, this is a simple alternative.
  • You can see everything at once.
Cons:
  • Once found, paper can be read!
  • It’s portable, but not really. In fact, I recommend password logbooks be left at home to reduce the chance of loss or theft. Since you won’t be carrying it with you, you won’t have access to your passwords when you need them. If you forget to bring your insurance card to the doctor’s office you may not be able to easily pull up your insurance site on your phone and email them a card.
  • Passwords must be updated manually.
  • You might be tempted to use simpler passwords that are easier to write quickly.
Here are two examples:
  • The Personal Internet Address & Password Logbook: The cover is removable so as not to identify the contents. Sections are included for internet information such as WIFI set-up, email accounts, internet service providers, etc. Peter Pauper Press offers this in many designs and this brand is my favorite.
  • BookFactory Password Journal/Password Organizer: This book is spiral-bound, which makes it easier to hold and flip through. But the cover has “*******” on the front, so if you purchase this book purely for the spiral binding, cover the title.

Online Password Manager

What it is:

An online tool to manage your passwords. Most have free versions and/or a trial period and an upgrade. The paid versions are subscription-based.

Pros:
  • You can sync across devices and access them from anywhere.
  • Your login information can be auto-filled.
  • You can generate random passwords and have them updated automatically.
Cons:
  • As with anything online, it can be hacked. Follow the recommendations for how often to change and update your master password and follow any recommended protocol – such as two-step authentication – to reduce your overall risk.
  • If you are not familiar or comfortable with using technology, then it might be a challenge to learn.
  • If you lose your “master password” (the one you use to access the site) it may be irretrievable (as with LastPass).
My recommendation:
LastPass by LogMeIn logo in red and black
A password manager and vault app

I’ve been using LastPass for years and it is the password manager I recommend to clients. Each year I check reviews, and as of this writing, it still ranks very high. There are some other good ones – Dashlane and 1Password, for instance – but I have no reason to switch (if I did, I could export the data). I asked two internet security experts about their opinion of password managers in general. Although I expected them to recommend a password logbook, both said they use LastPass!

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Passwords vs. Passphrases

Even if you choose to use an online password manager, there is one password I encourage you to write down and keep in a safe place: your master password. That’s the one you use to access your online account. If you lose it, it can’t be recovered. So what do you use for this critical password?

“Through 20 years of effort, we’ve successfully trained everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember, but easy for computers to guess.” ~ Randall Munroe, author of the popular webcomic XKCD

The differences:

I’ve been hesitant to write this blog post because of all the different and changing expert advice in the tech community. There is some controversy/dialogue over the effectiveness of passwords vs. passphrases. What’s the difference? A password is (or should be) a random group of letters and numbers with maybe a few odd characters thrown in. The key here is random. A passphrase, on the other hand, is made up of random words with or without spaces in between. Although random, you can actually remember it. Some sites might still require you to include a capital letter and number, but a random word grouping with those tweaks is still easier to remember than a random group of characters. Here are examples:

Password: d96wsk!wp3iQ

Passphrase: dog pipe Carpet what s0up! or 6Dogspipecarpetwhatsoup? or dog7pipescarpetwhatsouP

Choose your system:

You can dive deeper into the comparison in this article by Ben Wolford from Proton, but this is what I do:

  • I use LastPass. You can find a quick demonstration of LastPass in my YouTube video, A Few of My Favorite Apps at location 6:40.
  • Create a passphrase of five random words for my master password.
  • Let my password manager generate random passwords for all of the sites I store.
  • Designate someone to have emergency access to my password manager.

Do you still want to write things on sticky notes and scrap pieces of paper? Then write the date on them so you’ll have a clue as to what the note was in reference to or how dated the information is. Perhaps the extra work will inspire you to record that information in the right place – like a password manager!

Need help getting your system in place?

Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me or schedule your free consult. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Life/Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

The Ultimate Honey-Do List to Help Your Parents Age in Place

The Ultimate Honey-Do List to Help Your Parents Age in Place Are you worried about your aging parents staying in and maintaining their home? Not sure how to help them age in place without taking over? Skim through any neighborhood forums and you’ll see your aging neighbors are looking for trustworthy people to take care Read More

The Ultimate Honey-Do List to Help Your Parents Age in Place

Elderly couple in front of two story house, with backs to camera
Help your parents age in place

Are you worried about your aging parents staying in and maintaining their home? Not sure how to help them age in place without taking over? Skim through any neighborhood forums and you’ll see your aging neighbors are looking for trustworthy people to take care of light repairs and odds and ends. The need is there!

Offer to do a walk-through of your loved one’s home to see what needs repair or replacement. Then spend some quality time with them getting things done! Here are some tasks that your parents might appreciate and will set your mind at ease:

Replace smoke detector batteries

Count the number of smoke detectors throughout the home and check the battery type (usually 9 volts). Replace them, writing the date on the battery with a permanent marker. No smoke detectors? What a great gift idea!

Change burned-out light bulbs

Check lamps, fanlights, recessed bulbs, and even fridge and stove lights. Don’t forget attics, closets, basements and exterior lights. Replace as needed, considering how the room is used and the color value and brightness level needed. Visit energyearth.com for a lesson on lighting.

Change A/C filters

Check A/C filters and replace them as needed, marking with the date. Pick up a few extra to have on hand. Some filters even have apps associated with them that remind you when it’s time to replace them. Once you register, you’ll get notifications

Check fire extinguishers

Check the pressure gauge on fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully charged. Some are rechargeable, others are single use. In either case, they all slowly lose pressure over time.

For a recharge, check with the local fire department to see if they can provide a recharge or take to a certified fire equipment dealer. Then make sure it’s kept where it is needed. Single-use fire extinguishers that have no pressure need to be replaced. No fire extinguisher? Another great gift idea!

Help them lower their bills

Assist in making calls to utility and subscription service providers to negotiate lower bills or cancel altogether if not needed. For example, cell phones, cable, and internet service companies often offer special deals throughout the year. Offer to help resolve unexplained charges. As a result, you can help them save money.

Update their technology

Help install phone updates, check WiFi connectivity, internet security programs and make sure the TV works. Modems, even if fairly new, can become outdated and stop working. If this happens, assist in getting them replaced.

Fix and prevent safety issues

  • Test door locks and windows to make sure they are in good working order.
  • Check electrical cords for fraying.
  • Look for trip and fall dangers such as sliding throw rugs, furniture blocking pathways, etc. and clear obstacles.
  • Plan for severe weather and power outages:
    • Place flashlights in several areas of the home in case of a power outage.
    • Set up local weather alerts for them and you to receive notifications.
    • Get contact information for utility services to assist in getting updates on power restoration.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of a medical alert system. Research features and benefits together and help order if appropriate (and they agree).

Discuss scams that may target them

Talk with your parents about scams targeting the elderly. For instance, one particularly evil one is dubbed, the “Grandparent Scam.” Discuss fraudulent IRS calls, emails requesting money and/or information, etc. For more information, check the Better Business Bureau and the National Council on Aging and/or search “scams targeting elderly.”

The adage, bad news doesn’t get better with time is relevant here. For example, if when visiting you discover lightbulbs out, blown circuits, a TV not working, computers not behaving and parents who are struggling to figure it out or just make do, encourage them to keep a running honey-do list for you (I created an irreverent form called “Crap I Need Help With”). Hearing about problems sooner allows me to fix things faster and that gives me peace of mind. Above all, you’ll be helping your parents age in place.

Need help getting yourself or a loved one organized? Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, life and productivity coaching! I’d love to help you get organized so you can live the life you desire.

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Life/Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO