Q: A few weeks ago I came home and found many dots in the password field on my login screen. I locked up the computer to be away for a few hours during the day.
Is someone trying to hack into my computer? I live alone, so this has got to be done remotely from outside.
I have Norton Security on my computer, so I don’t know how someone could get in? I am scared. What should I do?
— Jeane G.
A: It does appear that someone was trying to sign into your computer. Hackers use password “crackers” — software that tries different combinations of words and, failing to find a password, it will move on to other combinations of characters. If you use a strong password — one that is at least eight characters long and that employs a combination of numbers, letters and special characters — most cracking programs would require weeks or months to hit the right combination.
What should you do? For starters, use strong passwords and use different ones for your different accounts.
That is, use one for accessing your computer and don’t use it for logging into your bank account. And change the passwords every so often. If you think someone may have been trying to access your computer, change the password immediately.
Yes, keeping track of a lot of different strong passwords can be a real challenge. That why I recommend subscribing to a password manager. I use LastPass. Not only does LastPass make it easy to generate strong passwords and to change them with a single click, it has other features you may like. My favorite feature is that you can selectively share passwords with family members.
You can also set up emergency access to your account for specified people you trust in the event you meet with misfortune. If they try to access your account and you don’t block them within a specified amount of time (the default is 48 hours but you can change it), they will be granted access.
You should also make sure your internet access is secure. If you are using Wi-Fi to access the internet, the first and most important step is to make sure network encryption is turned on and that a strong password is required to access the network. Also, make sure that the Wi-Fi station identifier isn’t being broadcast. You may need to consult the Wi-Fi router’s manual to get the specific steps.
Q: I have an issue that Comcast/Xfinity has been unable to solve for over a year. I have the high-end Xfinity internet service using their X1 service/modem/router. My issue is I cannot get access to a specific webpage at my house and it is an important one: my professional website. I have had no issues with any other webpages, just this one. Here are the facts:
1. Using Wi-Fi, I try to go to the website and it will not load, from any device.
2. I’ve tried Safari, Chrome, Firefox — still will not load.
3. I’ve reset cache, cleared cookies — still won’t work.
4. I had Comcast work on it and they can’t get it to work.
5. I’ve turn virus protection on/off, no difference.
6. If I use another IP address like at Starbucks, at work I can gain access to the site.
7. I’ve reset the modem/router several times.
It appears to be specific to my IP address at home, or my modem/router.
So any idea why I can’t get to this one website? Any way to fix it? I need to use it at least once a day for committee discussions and access to documents. I’m out of options.
— Jerry Woodfield, Bellevue
Q: You have done exactly the troubleshooting I would do. And it would seem that you’ve found the culprit: your router. It’s possible that tweaking settings in the router’s firewall might allow access to that website, but that’s likely to be a very frustrating experience. Replacing the router with a different model is much more likely to produce results without the angst.
You don’t mention if it’s a combined cable modem and Wi-Fi router. If they’re not combined, I’d recommend replacing the latter first.