Stories by Joe Kissell

How to prepare for a Mac disaster

No one likes to think about disasters such as burglary, earthquake, fire, the zombie apocalypse, or other catastrophes that could potentially wipe out your Mac, your other gadgets, and perhaps even your entire home or office. But these things do happen (with the possible exception of the zombies), and despite your best efforts, you might not be able to prevent the loss. You can, however, minimize the damage and inconvenience you'll suffer--and speed your recovery--by making sure you've taken a number of commonsense steps to prepare for misfortune ahead of time.

Joe Kissell | 28 Jul | Read more

How to make two-factor authentication less of a pain

You probably know by now that you should never use the same password in more than one place, and that each of your passwords should be strong enough to resist an automated attack. Perhaps you use iCloud Keychain, or a third-party password manager such as 1Password or LastPass to generate random passwords, store them, and fill them in automatically. But all that may not be enough if a site suffers a security breach that reveals its users passwords to an attacker--sadly, a frequent occurrence.

Joe Kissell | 01 Jul | Read more

How to use iCloud Keychain

Apple's new iCloud Keychain aims to solve an irritating problem: even if you've entered usernames and passwords on your Mac, you still have to reenter every single one manually on your iPhone and iPad (as well as any other Macs you use). As of OS X 10.9 Mavericks and iOS 7.0.3, however, iCloud Keychain keeps these account credentials, along with credit card numbers and other personal information (including your account settings for email, contacts, calendars, and social networking services) in sync across your Macs and iOS devices automatically.

Joe Kissell | 28 Oct | Read more

When password security questions aren't secure

When you select a password, you might choose to store it in a password manager, write it down, or commit it to memory (see “How to remember passwords” for some advice). Sometimes, however, things go wrong: You find yourself without access to your password manager, you lose the paper on which you recorded your passwords, or you forget a password you thought you memorized. Or maybe someone tries to break into one of your accounts, and after a few unsuccessful attempts at entering your password, the site locks out further access until you can confirm your identity.

Joe Kissell | 29 Nov | Read more

How to remember passwords (and which ones you should)

At the risk of repeating myself (see “What you don’t know about passwords might hurt you”), the best way to ensure that you never forget your passwords is to offload the task of remembering to a password manager such as 1Password (; $40). For most passwords, most people, and most of the time, that’s the only trick you’ll need. However, no matter what tools you use, you’ll have to memorize at least a few passwords. Because those are among your most important, you don’t want to trade security for memorability. Here a few tips that can help you make sure your brain doesn’t betray you.

Joe Kissell | 28 Nov | Read more

What you don’t know about passwords might hurt you

I don’t mean to alarm you, but—well, actually I do. Your password strategy, if you have one at all, might be seriously out of date. In recent months, several well-publicized attacks on major online services exposed users’ passwords. For example, in June 2012, more than six million LinkedIn passwords were stolen and posted online. Just over a month later, over 450,000 Yahoo passwords were leaked. Apart from the direct damage that can come from having one’s password made public, these security breaches revealed that vast numbers of people follow dangerous password practices that can result in far worse problems.

Joe Kissell | 27 Nov | Read more

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