Saturday, June 25, 2011

How to choose a good password

Its a fallacy to think that a very strong password, like Qiu&^%3kk_3238enh, is a good password. The reason is that such a password is so hard to remember that people will invariably write it down or store it in a text file on their computer that is easily accessible (e.g. on the desktop). Its much better to have a combination of both easy to remember and one that is fairly strong, with at least a combination of upper and lowercase and some numbers or punctuation thrown in as well. Its notable that a lot of online banking systems actually don't allow any punctuation - the password must be fully alphanumeric only.

Here's four tips to help you make up a good password:
  • Make sure it is at least 8 characters in length.
  • Make sure it contains at least two numbers and a mix of upper and lower case.
  • Make sure it doesn't contain any words that would appear in the dictionary.
  • Use an easy to remember four word phrase and then use just the beginning two letters of each word in the phrase, plus a two digit number. E.g. the phrase "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy" can be converted into the password "EaPeLeSq88".
Once you've selected a good password remember to never reuse it again on another account, and to change it regularly, at least twice a year.

Lastly, don't even think about using a simple password, for anything, even for temporary logins. The reason is that there are a lot of very commonly used passwords and hackers know them already. Here below is the list of the most commonly used passwords of all time. One out of every 50 people have used one of these passwords, at one time or another! Apologies about the bad language here, but hey I didn't make these up! ;-)
  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. 1234
  5. pussy
  6. 12345
  7. dragon
  8. qwerty
  9. 696969
  10. mustang
  11. letmein
  12. baseball
  13. master
  14. michael
  15. football
  16. shadow
  17. monkey
  18. abc123
  19. pass
  20. fuckme
The full list of commonly used passwords, from 1 to 500 is listed here, including several more swearwords!

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