Archive for November, 2009

20
Nov
09

Passwords and more.

With the advent of the internet and computerization changing the way we look at just about anything including the way we buy groceries, we, in our virtually pampered lives, become overwhelmed with numbers and letters and alphanumeric sequences to remember so that theft of our vulnerable virtual identity may be averted. Before the telephone, came the intercom in the small quarters of the hospital where we lived. All it took to remember a contact number was 3 numbers, ours was 243, short and simple. Then came the telephone which created the necessity for a whole book of numbers, of course, the special ones were still remembered.

Years passed and Dial-up connection came to India. It was a revolution when it hit Aizawl. People were exchanging email addresses, carrying Floppy drives and 4-inch thick laptops were considered “hip” at the time. Sitting for an hour at the local Cybercafe costed Rs.100 or more, but it was technologically advanced so nobody cared. The connection speed was so slow that viruses were never a problem cos’ the bandwidth just did not support the download of anything beyond Kilobytes in size, and the constant DCs (Or disconnected for the younger generations) didn’t help much. mIrc was the biggest craze and was the medium where friends (and a couple of non-friends) from all over the country communicated over the now mostly forgotten “Aizawlchat”, one of the biggest Mizo chatroom ever. Since the software hardly required anything beyond 56Kbps, it was the perfect cyberstorm.

Then came broadband. It’s amazing how higher bandwidth has changed the way we look at the internet and the world. In a timespan as short as the life of Windows ME, came ATMs, lower Cybercafe rates, faster money transfer etc. In my 1st year in college, my folks had to send money through Wire transfers which sometimes took more than a week through SBIs (No Offense, Enga!), and later through Money Orders which, at least reliably, took about a week. Now, it happens at the click of a mouse, one-minute transfers.

Coming back to the topic, with technology and convenience always comes inconvenience. ATM cards, Email addresses, Online accounts, Company accounts, need i say more? There is so much we have to remember for the sake of security. ATM pins, although 4-digits, I think, are the most easy to forget. So if you have more than one account, you would probably keep a common number so that its easier for you to remember. Then you’d forget which easy number you had kept, was it your Birthday, anniversary, gf/bfs bday, vehicle number? Then like a sequel to a badly overdone slasher movie, different accounts kept coming.

Facebook, Orkut, Yahoo, Mi(sual), MySpace, Hi5, Tagged and a whole lotta other mail websites, all requiring you to remember your username and password. You’d use the same password and username on all, but you stand the chance of your identity being hacked, or so some Security websites would say. In a way, I think we, as Mizos are lucky cos’ we can use our language as passwords, which no algorithm in the world would be able to crack, kinda like the “Windtalkers”, if you would.

The worst criteria for passwords is in the corporate environments. They have a friggin’ requirement for a password! Take my company for example (Which I think is same in most companies, knowing Windows server environment!) The password would have to be more than 8 characters long, should contain a letter in Uppercase, a special character like !@#$%^&*, should not be the last one you used, should not contain your name, etc. And better still, you’d have to change your password every 30-60 days for security purposes, like creating and remembering one password is not easy enough.

So, being in the industry for well over 2 years, I’ve learnt to work around the glitch. Here’s how:
1. Make your password easy to remember (Duh!) like “Summer1!”(Notice the uppercase S)… that works.
2. Then the next time you are asked to change the password, change it to “Summer2@” (You get 2@ easily by pressing 2+Shift2) or “Summer2!”
3. Then the sequence follows as usual
4. It’s no rocket science and still isn’t as easy to remember, but it’ll do.

So finally, in a virtual world where people rip off others by pretending to offer them a Million Dollars (Or less), and yet there are still victims who are gullible enough (or plain ignorant!) to take the bait and provide their personal online information only to be duped of any amount they are willing to part with, I guess online security is one of the most important things that we need education on right now. Phishers are out in search of “phish” meat and with older and, not offensively but, virtually less-educated friends/family members surfing the internet, I guess its the duty of us, Generation X,Y,Z whatever to help them differentiate the real from the unreal (No matter how reluctant they may accept your goodwill). In the virtual world, not everyone is who they seem to be in reality, including me! Beware!

So, with CyberSecurity in mind (and totally not being swollen-headed!), please check out the video from Symantec about the (pretty impressive tho’) tool used by hackers, how they parade their conquests without fear online, dealing in malicious softwares like it was eBay on crack. You simply have to check out the part where he hacks into the XP computer from his server, it could happen to anyone, aaaannyyooonnee!! We now have a connection speed more than 10 times what we had 5 years ago, but we must remember:

With great bandwidth comes great responsibility!

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06
Nov
09

On sickness

I had a bad week, not that Monday started bad but it was Tuesday that messed me up. Got up on that morning on the superlative WRONG side of bed, with certain gurgling sound coming from within my bowels, a backache and severe stomach pain, topped off with a slight fever that left me nauseated. I had never felt so vulnerable.

I’d always thought I was “unbreakable”, like when Marshall stubbed his toe in How I met Your Mother, not because I have always followed a strict healthy diet or habit or anything, but simply because I don’t really remember the last time I was sick. Sure, I’ve had a few bad days now and then, but nothing a hot bath and some fresh air didn’t fix. But this time, it seemed serious.

I went to the office anyway, and it sucked. I had a hard time sitting cos’ of the backache, the AC didn’t help my fever much and I was mostly  halfway between my desk and the restroom, wondering whether the anal pressure was for real this time or not. After half the day was done, I felt really weak and more sick. I left early for the day and slept as soon as I reached home.

I  woke up around 7 in the evening, not feeling any better. I’d always thought I could overcome my sickness by willing myself, just pretend I’m feeling all OK. It seemed to work pretty well for me, until now. I threw on my joggers and went for a long walk in the neighborhood, something I haven’t done in a while. Grabbed a can of RedBull on the way (which does work when you’re really drained!), acted like it was a saturday and had some Momos at the local Chinese joint. My back was killing me by then, but I didn’t let that bother me. By the time I got back, I had to get one of those pain-sprays for my back.

On Wednesday, I still managed to drag myself to work, the backache was gone, but my fever and bowels were having a grand party inside my body, and I wasn’t invited. I wrapped up my pending work and left after exactly 2 hrs. (Which seemed like an eternity in sick-time!). By this time, all my theories about my body were slowing packing their bags to leave for neverland, but hopefully not forever. They can come visit me during the holidays, its always nice to have familiar faces.

So finally, by wednesday evening, I decided to see…. a DOCTOR. OK. So heres, the deal. No disrespect meant, but I just find it hard extremely hard to trust doctors outside Mizoram. I know that sounds kinda racist and immature, but I have my reasons. That’s probably why I haven’t been “sick” all these years. This would be my fist time seeing a doctor ever since I landed on the dusty streets of Pune. I had a tough time swallowing those tablets tho’, I hate medicines, but thats another story.

Well, my little peeve was apparently crushed beyond recognition as I woke up to a be-yooo-tiful Thursday, feeling fit and fine and ready to dine. Ah.. the power of medicine. That’s something I wouldn’t mess around with until abso-effing-lutely necessary. So, here I am tapping away on my keyboard on a Friday, all chirpy and ready to spend another blurry weekend. Feeling good has never felt this good. It’s great.. just to be alive!