So my last post was also about Facebook's email features and it wasn't particularly positive. That had a lot more to do with the way they had been thrust on us rather than the fundamental features though. Facebook email is actually kind of neat. It has the potential to be the start of integration of the two things I check the most online. Ever since Facebook rolled out the @facebook.com email addresses for every Facebook user the potential has been there to have emails sent directly to your Facebook messages or to send messages to any email address from Facebook. Here is an example below where I was testing the service sending a message from my Facebook account to a gmail address.
Sending the message from my Facebook account.
What the message looked at in my gmail inbox.
While not everyone has or uses Facebook regularly the ability to manage
your emails and social networking in one place could become very useful. The service handles attachments well and can easily be used for quick messages while on Facebook. However, until it can integrate with current email addresses I can't see it being particularly popular. It is fairly basic at this point and there are not a lot of options for organising messages easily. Particularly for personal emails though I would say there is some serious potential here. Like us on Facebook or follow us on twitter to hear more tips and tricks in the future!
Yesterday I noticed a small change to my Facebook profile page. Where I once had my personal email address displayed in my contact info under the 'about' button I now had an @facebook.com address. I see this an attempt on the part of Facebook to have a larger presence in another area of our internet lives. This desire to take a larger chunk of the pie is not necessarily either a good or bad thing but I am not a fan of how they have gone about making this change with no warning or notification. I had specific reasons for having my personal email address available in my contact details for my friends to see and you might have as well.
Luckily changing it back is fairly simple and can be done in a few easy steps:
Navigate to your profile page and click on the "About" button just below your profile picture in Timeline.
Scroll down to the "Contact Info" section and hit "Edit". You should get a drop down like the one below.
On the far right of the image click on the drop down menu next to the circles. You want to switch the setting for your personal and your @facebook.com email addresses so that your personal one has "display on timeline" selected and the @facebook.com address has "hidden from timeline" selected.
This should change things back so that once again an email address that you actually use is displayed. Check us out on Facebook for more posts like this or follow us on Twitter for helpful and interesting titbits. Coming up... Why I like Facebook email addresses.
How bad would the damage be if your passwords were stolen?
Last week's online attack that led to the theft of several million passwords for professional networking site LinkedIn and for online dating site eHarmony highlighted the vulnerability inherent in having an online presence. Perhaps the theft of your password for one website doesn't seem like it could do much damage but consider how many of your passwords are the same over multiple websites. How many sites or profiles could a hacker gain access to if they had your email password, especially with all of those helpful "I've forgotten my password" buttons on so many sites? How much information do you have stored online; either in email accounts, documents or online photo albums? In this story on Stuff a Christchurch nurse lost all the information she'd saved over the years in her email account which she'd used as a "filing cabinet".
Is there no hope for password security?
This isn't to say that there is nothing you can do. We are not all just playing a giant game of chance with our online information. There are some simple steps you can take to minimise the risks. Obviously the best step would be to have totally different passwords for every site you use, especially when you combine numbers with both upper and lower case letters. Passwords that are completely unrelated to anything and that look like you generated them by dropping a cat onto a keyboard are very secure. "y7Gs55sUt" or "jc8B5p7Qq" would both be very difficult to crack. While those would be great I know that I would have absolutely no chance remembering one of those passwords, let alone the dozens many of us would need to use over different websites.
One option is to use software to store and even generate passwords. 1Password and LastPass are a couple of examples of programs which can be used to shift the responsibility for remembering passwords away from your memory, which opens up a huge variety of ludicrously complex password options. Suddenly "jd6FF8sJ8v" becomes just as practical as "cat" as far as your memory is concerned. Of course you then need to make sure you have a very secure password to log in to the service in the first place but one complex password is much easier to remember than twenty would be.
A few tips for creating stronger passwords
Avoid using words from the dictionary.
Include a mix of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers.
Don't use "password" as a password. You'd be surprised how many people do this.
Try using the last or first letters of a memorable sentence for a secure password. e.g. "When I was 13 I lived at 3 Makaro Street" = "WIw13Ila3MS"
If you have to use the same password for multiple sites think about what would happen if a hacker stole that password from one site and tried it on them all. Try at the very least to have different passwords for your email, your online banking and for the rest of your internet presence.
Final thoughts on password security
It is incredibly important to be thinking about password protection when online. The web is an open environment with tremendous opportunities for making connections and for organising data but its same openness creates opportunities for hackers. There is always inherent risk in the world around us, we just need to be sure that me do our best to minimise those risks. Follow us on Twitter or 'like' our page on Facebook for more tips in the future.