Take Control of Your Passwords, Third Edition
Take Control of Your Passwords, Third Edition
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Take Control of Your Passwords, Third Edition

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Completed on 2018-01-29

About the Book

Passwords have become a truly maddening aspect of modern life, but with this book, you can discover how the experts handle all manner of password situations, including multi-factor authentication that can protect you even if your password is hacked or stolen.

The book explains what makes a password secure and helps you create a strategy that includes using a password manager, working with oddball security questions like "What is your pet’s favorite movie?", and making sure your passwords are always available when needed.

Joe helps you choose a password manager (or switch to a better one) in a chapter that discusses desirable features and describes a dozen different apps, with a focus on those that work in macOS, iOS, Windows, and Android. The book also looks at how you can audit your passwords to keep them in tip-top shape, use two-step verification and two-factor authentication, and deal with situations where a password manager can’t help.

The book closes with an appendix on helping a relative set up a reasonable password strategy for those whose relatives have distressing password strategies, and an extended explanation of password entropy for those who want to consider the math behind passwords.

“Awesome. You did an amazing job breaking it down. This should be mandatory reading.” –Rich Mogull, CEO at Securosis

This book shows you exactly why:

  • 9-character passwords with upper- and lowercase letters, digits, and punctuation are not strong enough.
  • You cannot turn a so-so password into a great one by tacking a punctuation character and number on the end.
  • It is not safe to use the same password everywhere, even if it’s a great password.
  • A password is not immune to automated cracking because there’s a delay between login attempts.
  • Even if you’re an ordinary person without valuable data, your account may still be hacked, causing you problems.
  • You cannot manually devise “random” passwords that will defeat potential attackers.
  • Just because a password doesn’t appear in a dictionary, that does not* necessarily mean that it’s adequate.
  • It is not a smart idea to change your passwords every month.
  • Truthfully answering security questions like “What is your mother’s maiden name?” does not keep your data more secure.
  • Adding a character to a 10-character password does not make it 10 percent stronger.
  • Easy-to-remember passwords like “correct horse battery staple” will not solve all your password problems.
  • All password managers are not pretty much the same.
  • Your passwords will not be safest if you never write them down and keep them only in your head.

But don’t worry, the book also teaches you a straightforward strategy for handling your passwords that will keep your data safe without driving you batty.

“Joe handles a confusing and scary subject more clearly and calmly than I would have thought possible. I’ll be recommending this book to just about everybody I know.” –William Porter, database developer, author, photographer

About the Author

Joe Kissell
Joe Kissell

Joe Kissell has written numerous books about technology, including many popular Take Control ebooks, with an emphasis on Apple products. He's also Senior Editor of TidBITS and a Senior Contributor to Macworld, and previously spent ten years in the Mac software industry.

About the Contributors

Adam C. Engst
Adam C. Engst


Table of Contents

  • Read Me First
    • Updates and More
    • Basics
    • What’s New in the Third Edition
  • Introduction
  • Passwords Quick Start
  • Understand the Problems with Passwords
    • Simple for You, Simple for Them
    • The One and the Many
    • The Major Threats
    • Timeworn Tricks
    • Usernames and Passwords: an Outdated Model
  • Learn About Password Security
    • What Makes a Good Password?
    • All About Entropy
    • Why a Great Password Isn’t Enough
    • Understanding Security Questions and Reset Procedures
    • Multi-Factor Authentication
    • Authenticating with Another Site’s Credentials
  • Apply Joe’s Password Strategy
    • Figure Out Which Passwords You Must Memorize
    • Create Strong but Memorable Passwords
    • Use a Password Manager for Everything Else
    • Handle Security Questions
    • Manage Email Options
    • Deal with Exceptions and Surprises
  • Pick a Password Manager
    • Features to Look For
    • Example Password Managers
    • Joe’s Recommendations
  • Keep Your Passwords Secure
    • Avoid the “Weakest Link” Problem
    • Use Wireless Networks Safely
    • Back Up Your Passwords
    • Prepare an Emergency Password Plan
  • Audit Your Passwords
    • Understand the Overall Process
    • Look for Weak Passwords
    • Triage Your Passwords
    • Update a Password
  • Appendix A: Use Two-Factor Authentication
    • Two-Step Verification Basics
    • Use Apple’s Enhanced Security Options
    • Use Dropbox’s Two-Step Verification
    • Use Facebook’s Two-Step Verification
    • Use Google’s Two-Step Verification
    • Use Microsoft’s Two-Step Verification
    • Use Twitter’s Two-Step Verification
  • Appendix B: Help Your Uncle with His Passwords
    • Password Manager Compromises
    • Password Reuse Compromises
    • Password Complexity Compromises
  • Appendix C: Calculate Password Strength
    • The Entropy Formula
    • An Aside: Doing Math with Google
    • Why That Entropy Formula Is Wrong
    • Back to zxcvbn
    • Password Strength Summary
    • For Further Reading
  • About This Book
    • Ebook Extras
    • About the Author and Publisher
    • Credits
  • Also by Joe Kissell
  • Copyright and Fine Print

About the Publisher

This book is published on Leanpub by Take Control Books

With its Take Control series of ebooks, alt concepts inc. covers a wide range of technology topics, with a special emphasis on Apple products and services. Our catalog comprises over 100 titles, and we’ve sold hundreds of thousands of ebooks in the process of providing expert advice and technical know-how to tens of thousands of readers around the world. Join us today!

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