Gordon Snow on Cybersecurity at Home

I’m a military brat.  Most Americans are familiar with this term, because it is a common way we brats answer the question: “Where are you from?”  Every other answer takes too long.  You know, like explaining why being born in Italy doesn’t mean I’m Italian.  And we really don’t have enough time to talk about all the schools we went to.

According to Wikipedia, we are an entire sub-culture.  One component of this subculture is a company called USAA.  USAA is an organization which provides financial services, loans and banking to anyone associated with the military.  And in their eyes, once a brat, always a brat.  This turns out to be a good thing, because the children of service men and women have a lifetime right to use their services.

The Fall 2012 issue of USAA’s magazine features an interview with Gordon Snow.  He was formerly the FBI’s top cybercrime cop.  Naturally I was curious to read about his tips for keeping our families safe.

You can find the on-line article here, but they cut out a lot of the good stuff (nice reference to my employer though).  Here are my two favorite useful tips:

1.)  Go Long!  – Here’s a password quiz: which is a stronger password – the hard-to-remember: “H7%doss!” or the easier: “MyLazyDogRex” (note: this second one is also called a “passphrase”)?

Believe it or not, the short one will take a password cracker 6 hours to crack; the longer (but easier to remember) one will take 317 years.

2.) Be Suspicious!  – Don’t freely allow others to connect to your home wireless.

* Gordon expects anyone who wants to connect to the home wireless to run a security scan FIRST.  In fact, here’s a link to a free, safe, security scan

* This might be overkill for most of us, but suppose your teen is hosting a party and there are just too many kids to check their individual systems.  In this case, change the router settings so that the only devices allowed to use the wireless network are those whose individual MAC addresses have been entered (this is basically a serial number which is unique to each device).  Instructions for doing this can be found here.

* This one is for our military: if Aunt Mildred says she can’t talk about when your cousin Tim is coming back from Afghanistan, it means you can’t talk about it either.  And definitely not online.  In fact with so many young soldiers using Facebook these days, the famous World War II tagline “loose lips sink ships” has been updated to “loose lips STILL sink ships” and is being aggressively recirculated.


USAA also has more good tips here, at their security and privacy center which is available to everyone (not just members).

And Happy Holidays to all you military and my fellow brats out there, wherever in the world you may be!



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