What are the benefits to password protecting your files?


I want to password protect a file (so that) when double clicking to open, a box will come up asking for a password. If I do this, will it keep Internet spies from viewing sensitive information such as that in MS office or only safeguard my computer files from in house snoops?

- Sandra


This question was answered on October 9, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Password protecting files that contain sensitive information has many benefits beyond trying to thwart the efforts of malicious Internet users.

If all you are concerned about is how to hide your information from others that are on the Internet, creating passwords is not your answer Internet ‘spies’ use attacks employing ‘Trojan horse’ programs that will open ‘back doors’ on your system and capture every keystroke (including any passwords) that you type.

Where the passwords do come in handy are when you get infected with any of the thousands of e-mail worms that randomly ‘grabs’ one of your files, infects it and sends it as an attachment to people in your address book.

Or if your computer ever gets stolen, you donate it and forget about data from years ago, have work done on it or sell it; your sensitive info has some level of protection.

Putting passwords on files in most common productivity programs such as Excel or Word is quite easy

In the current versions of Microsoft Excel and Word, click on the ‘Tools’ menu, then on ‘Options’, then on the ‘Security’ tab at the top

A password can be created for opening the file or modifying it (helpful in offices when many users handle the same document) If you are really concerned about the encryption level, you can click on the ‘Advanced’ button to select a specific type.

There are few important things to remember when it comes to passwords The more characters that you use, the harder it is to break and by combining numbers and letters, you can exponentially increase the security of the password.

Never use your PIN number or the last 4 digits of your SSN as your password because purely numeric passwords are fairly easy to crack (for hackers).

Most passwords are case sensitive, so combining upper and lower case characters along with numbers also reduces the chances of your password being broken

Don’t use words that are commonly available in dictionaries because there are a whole host of password breaking programs that can be downloaded from the Internet that use a ‘brute force dictionary attack’ These programs simply try every single word in the dictionary in an

automatic procedure that can try thousands of words per minute.

If you really want to get creative, use the number 1 in place of an L or I or the number 3 for E or the number 0 for O and begin or end the password with a ? or a ! or use something easy for you to remember, only backwards.

The biggest reason that users incorporate easy passwords is so that they can remember them, so if you need help storing and generating passwords, there are a number of free and low cost password managers available at www.webattack.com by putting ‘password manager’ in the search box.

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on October 9, 2003