Use strong passwords on all Windows computer accounts



last revision August 10, 2004

Suggestions to secure your Windows PC:
  1. Use strong passwords
  2. Install security patches
  3. Share files correctly
  4. Use anti-virus software
  5. Protect against email viruses
  6. Install PCLeland
  7. Minimize open network services
  8. Run a security analyzer
  9. Do regular backups
  10. Apply special Windows XP fixes

Make sure that you have set strong passwords for all local user accounts created in Windows NT, 2000, and XP and for file shares in Windows 95, 98, and ME. Double check that this is the case for the Administrator account or any account with administrator group privilege. Note that all accounts made in Windows XP Home Edition start with administrator privilege and no password and must be fixed to have a good password. Find rules for setting strong passwords here.

Energy Resources Engineering department supplied computers have no local accounts. They utilize your SUNet ID to login to the campus Windows domain. These users just need to set a good password for SUNet ID.

Default file sharing options will be exploited by hackers to break into your computer if your accounts or file shares have no passwords or easily guessed passwords. Also, if your accounts with administrator privileges have no or poor passwords, a hacker can change important settings in your Windows registry, using the Remote Registry Service that is enabled by default in Windows 2000/XP and may be optionally enabled in Windows 95/98/NT.

If you don't know how to set Administrator and user passwords on your version of Windows, the World of Windows Networking web site has complete instructions for configuring and managing all aspects of networking, including setting user passwords, on all versions of Windows. This site has numerous screen shots to show you exactly what to do.

In addition to protecting your computer from hackers, accounts and passwords are used in Windows to let you access network services such as file and print sharing provided by pangea. To make this process as easy as possible, it is suggested that you use your pangea account name and local pangea password when creating your normal user account on your Windows PC. This has the added advantage that your pangea local password has already passed stringent security checks when you set it on pangea.

The Administrator password is essential to fix any problems that arise on your Windows NT, 2000, or XP computer, so don't forget it. It is better to write it down and hide the paper somewhere than to leave the password blank or put in a trivial password just to make it easy to remember.

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