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Creating an invincible password

You think you have a clever password, eh? Well, sorry, guest123 just ain't gonna cut it anymore. Hackers* can crack your English-word-plus-number based password in a matter of hours. With much of our lives moving online, through email, Facebook, online photo albums, banking, etc, Farhad Manjoo's tips on creating invincible passwords is well worth reading. His tips basically boil down to to following two steps:

Start with an original but memorable phrase. For this exercise, let's use these two sentences: I like to eat bagels at the airport and My first Cadillac was a real lemon so I bought a Toyota. The phrase can have something to do with your life or it can be a random collection of words—just make sure it's something you can remember. That's the key: Because a mnemonic is easy to remember, you don't have to write it down anywhere. (If you can't remember it without writing it down, it's not a good mnemonic.) This reduces the chance that someone will guess it if he gets into your computer or your e-mail. What's more, a relatively simple mnemonic can be turned into a fanatically difficult password.

Which brings us to Step 2: Turn your phrase into an acronym. Be sure to use some numbers and symbols and capital letters, too. I like to eat bagels at the airport becomes Ilteb@ta, and My first Cadillac was a real lemon so I bought a Toyota is M1stCwarlsIbaT.

I used to use a single password for everything, from banking to my Unix account at work. It's a miracle I never had a break-in. I now use several passwords, all completely scrambled based on the formula above. Now you, like me, have no excuse not to keep your online life securely locked up!

*Yes, I know that a cracker .NE. haX0r, but most people think "cracker" means something else, entirely.


blissful_e said…
I use LastPass. That way, I only have to remember one password (and I use the type you describe) but LastPass generates gobbledegook passwords for all my other accounts (email, bank, forums, etc). I don't think LastPass would work for a UNIX account, but I highly recommend it for everything else.
Marshall said…
I've recently jumped on the 1Password bandwagon, and so far I really like it. It integrates very nicely into Safari, so you just have to remember your one master password and it autofills any web page with the appropriate password for that site. And it does let you store arbitrary secure information of any sort, not just web page passwords, so it's good for encrypting unix account login info or medical record numbers or insurance information, etc.

The best part is that it works perfectly with Dropbox for synchronization between machines. Any accounts logged into on my laptop propagate the login info securely to my desktop, and vice versa.

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