Kahney’s Korner: Lessons from having my MacBook stolen

Leander Kahney had a scare when a backpack full of computing power was stolen.
Leander Kahney had a scare when a backpack full of computing power was stolen.
Photo: Cult of Mac

I want to spare you some of the pain that recently greeted me after a night out with friends. I returned to my car to find the rear window smashed out and my backpack gone. It contained my brand new MacBook and iPad.

The worry, of course, was whether my backpack was in the hands of tech-savvy crooks, so I prepared for the worst.

What I learned over a long weekend about my own approach to security is the subject of this week’s Kahney’s Korner.

Emoji are about to takeover over your passwords

How will we express this emotion?!
A British company has developed an emoji-only password option for online banking.
Photo: Intelligent Environments/Vimeo

Our friends chuckle when we text them a story using emoji. Fun little pictures rich in context and feeling, especially when we can make use of the smiling poo.

But that funny emoji story could also make a very secure password.

The British company Intelligent Environments has developed emoji security technology the developers say will be easier to remember and offer many more combinations that a four-digit PIN code.

Rapper shows why you shouldn’t post your password in a music video


A strong password means nothing if you're shouting it out. Photo: College Humor
A strong password means nothing if you're shouting it out. Photo: College Humor

We’re all concerned about our privacy lately. Using a different strong password for all our banking and website activities is the best way to keep malicious hackers from getting all up into our grill.

Rapper MC Safesearch, though, needs to remember not to post his passwords in the music video he’s doing about privacy and security.

Check out how this socially-conscious musician gets totally hacked during his own music video.

Apple’s biggest security threat is you


App slicing just isn't a thing, yet.
iCloud faces some tough security issues. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

iCloud passwords and security passwords can be guessed using social networking and various phishing techniques, and complex passwords and two-step verification are not as intuitive as they should be.

In a delightfully complete article over at TidBITS, author Rich Mogul lays out the facts behind the current spate of Apple security problems – most of which boil down to this: People are the weakest link in the chain.

As anyone who’s worked with technology in the past decade can tell you, the thorniest technical challenges aren’t typically those that deal directly with hardware and software. No, in most cases, the toughest things to troubleshoot and fix lie along the human spectrum. System administrators have long known this, coming up with acronyms like PEBCAK and ID-10T errors.

The same goes for security, which in Apple’s case affects an ever-increasing number of people who not be savvy to the ways of information security.

XKPasswd Generates Secure Pass-Phrases



Apart from “correct horse battery staple,” the most secure passwords aren’t words, they’re phrases. You don’t even need crazy symbols or hard-to-determine numerals (is that an l or a 1, a 0 or an O?) – just a good, longish phrase made out of words.

And now you don’t even have to make one up. Using the XKPasswd generator, based on but not associated with Randall Munroe’s amazing comic strip XKCD, you can generate secure pass phrases easily.