Managing Passwords

Managing Passwords

This guide is aimed at helping customers who have lost or forgotten passwords. It also covers the authentication issues involved in setting up an email account or signing up to a website, such as the use of Captcha (or “I am not a robot”) software.

You can print or download this Managing Passwords helpsheet [435 KB].

When you set up an email account for the first time, you will have to set a password for the account, for the purpose of security. You may also be asked to provide one or more of the following:

  • A phone number (which must be a mobile phone)
  • An alternative email address.
  • A special security question (eg mother’s maiden name, name of first school, first pet, etc)

Screenshot of email icon

If you do not have a mobile phone, you may need to ask a friend or family member if you can use the number for theirs. This is not recommended, because of the security risk but it may be the only option. The same thing applies if you have to provide an alternative email address.

There are two important situations in which your alternative phone number/email address may be used:

  • If you do forget your password, when you apply to reset it, a link to set the new password will be sent to your recovery phone number or email address. Confirmation will be sent to that email address or phone number, once the reset has been accepted.
  • If someone tries to hack your email account, or you try to access your emails from an unfamiliar computer or mobile device (for instance, in a library, or internet café), an email or text message will be sent to your back-up phone/email address, asking if this is you? If it is not you, then you should immediately change your password.

Screenshot of an application form on a laptop screen

It is not good practice to write passwords down, again for reasons of security. There are a number of ways round this. You can:

  • Use a password vault (a secure online storage facility, often provided as part of security software, eg Norton, McAfee, etc)
  • Write down a mnemonic reminder, rather than the password itself. If you follow this method, you will need to strike a balance between what you are likely to remember and what a hacker might be able to guess.

Another important area of computer security is access to a particular laptop, smart phone or tablet. When you buy a new device you are encouraged to set up a personalised PIN or login. This can take the form of biometrics, where the device recognises your fingerprint, face or retina. There are clear advantages to using this system, as it is much harder to hack. What you must remember is that it must be the same finger, or the same camera angle, that you use.The other popular form of authentication is best described as I am not a robot. This is frequently used with email, but also when connecting with online meetings, such as Zoom calls. Its simplest form is a tickbox with the query “I am not a robot”.

Screenshot of a touchscreen tablet

The more complex versions involve often hard-to-read number and letter combinations that have to be replicated, or picture grids where the customer is required to tick the squares which feature, for instance, traffic signs. Some versions of this have the screen reloading multiple times before access is allowed.

Screenshot of Captcha or I am Not a Robot authentification
Basic security is essential if you are using computers, smart phones or tablets. More sophisticated security, is recommended once you have grown confident with your device.

Screenshot of man holding tablet
For more computer help, West Sussex Libraries offers a range of Library Digital Support.
This guide has been produced by West Sussex County Council Library Service © 2022

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