24 January, 2016

A same password for every service?

Do you have a same password for every service that you use? The same password for office and personal emails? The same for Facebook and Gmail? The same for www.some-forum-site.com?

Well, it seems you could land in deep trouble.

Having a single password is a single point of failure. If your password gets compromised, all of the services that use your password are no longer secure.

If you keep your password written on a piece of paper and keep it locked in a vault, it is still not safe if you use a 'one for all' password.

Why? Well, do not consider a password analogous to a physical key. A password can be copied easily once it leaves your system to the server. Physical keys can also be copied, but it is not so easy and you need special equipment to do that (and a locksmith).

When you enter your password in the login prompt, you enter it in "plain text" (even though it appears to you as * * * *). It is sent to the server in "plain text". If you don't use HTTPS, it is transfered over the network in "plain text". Even if you use HTTPS, the server decrypts it to "plain-text". The point I am trying to make is that the other side (i.e. the server) can read your password once you send it from the login prompt. Eventually, you have to trust the other side.

Now what they do with your password plays a major role in securing your account. Trusted companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter do not store your password in "plain text". What they store is called a "hash" of your password. So while signing in, they compare the hash of received password with the stored password. If it matches, Viola! You are logged in!

So trusted websites do not store your password. Do they? Well you trust them so OK.

But there are websites which are developed by amateur programmers, who happen to store the passwords in "plain text". Yes IT HAPPENS! Such websites are very vulnerable because beginner developers tend to turn a blind eye towards security.

Now, you might have heard reports of hacker groups releasing millions of passwords from hacked websites. Many times they get these passwords in plain-text and release them in public domain along with user details. Believe me, this is very common and there are several methods attackers use to get this information.

Now, you happen to have an account on www.some-forum-site.com which gets compromised. Your password is now in public domain. If you use that password everywhere, you are gone! I mean seriously gone!

Should you keep a one-for-all password? No! Now go change your passwords!

14 January, 2016

What is your religion?

Ever since I have come to Europe, sometimes people have asked me about Hinduism. I get asked questions like are there many Gods? What book does Hinduism follow? etc. etc.

Frankly, I find it very difficult to answer questions about Hinduism. To be honest, I do not know about my own religion. Moreover, I was raised in a very moderate and not so religious household where nothing was forced on me.

But hey! Still if you do some research, by probably asking various religious "gurus", you would still find it difficult to understand this religion and narrow it down to specific 'points'. The reason is mainly because Hinduism is quite an obfuscated religion and is very heterogeneous. In fact, it does not fit the definition of a religion. It encompasses a variety of various "cultures" or "sub sects" which have a varied views on God and spirituality.

On contrary, religions like Islam and Christianity are well understood and known to their believers. Of course, it is all about interpretation, but people do follow a book of code and specific defined rules. Also people are aware about such rules. For example, Muslims and Christians believe in ONE GOD and forbid worshiping anything other than that God.

So, as I said that Hinduism does not have a single book of code and is a heterogeneous set of beliefs or values for achieving spirituality. Hence, below are a few points that give a very basic idea of this weird religion.
  • Many Gods - We have may Gods. The most popular ones are Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesh, Durga, Balaji, etc. My grandma once told me that there are 10 million Gods appearing in different forms. My favourite God is Ganesh, the lord of wisdom who has an elephant head and a human body.
  • Trinity - The three supreme Gods - Bramha (the creator), Vishnu (the maintainer), Mahesh (the destroyer, also knows as Shiva)
  • One God - Yeah, one God. It is confusing. The many gods mentioned above are said to be the manifestations of the 'Brahman', the universe. But hey they are still different Gods. Although many Hindus believe in oneness of God (i.e. the supreme deity).
  • No God - Yep! If you believe that there is no God, it is perfectly okay. You will be called a 'nastik' but that is completely fine. My grandma used to call me a 'nastik' when I didn't used to pay attention to prayers or refute the authority of God. But that still made me a Hindu, I guess.
  • Karma - Almost all Hindus believe in the concept of Karma. In other words, what goes around comes around.
  • Reincarnation - The human body is believed to be a temporary house for our 'soul' and your soul is put into some other body after your death (if everything goes alright). You could be something else than a Human based on the 'sin points' that you have scored in this life (may be an ant if you sinned less, if you sinned zero then probably a human again).
  • Heterogeneity - Hinduism is very heterogeneous. There are various forms like Vaishnavism (Vishnu worshipers), Shaivism (Shiva worshipers) and many others that I do not know of.
  • Cow - The cow has a special status and is considered holy mainly because it gives milk. You will often hear people saying, "Cow is our mother".
  • Code Book - There is no single holy book that dictates and defines the religion. There are however various ancient scriptures. These include the Vedas, Puranas, Gita, Ramayan, Mahabharat, etc.
So there it is. A few points about this religion. Please note that this is my understanding and others could give you a different point of view. I am not really a religious person and most of the people in India are similar to me. So what do I follow? Well, I can say some form of Hinduism. I am a 'nastik' but I do like the God Ganesh (he is cute). In fact, it is apt to say that Hinduism is more of a culture and society thing.

Finally, in my opinion the concept of a religion is boring and it does not give you the freedom of thinking freely. Sorry to hurt your sentiments, I don't really care :D

Do write about your religion in the comments. It is interesting though.