Let’s be honest. How many different passwords do you currently use? For Facebook, banking, email, web hosting and so on – do you have a separate password for each account? And have you scribbled them down on lots of scrap pieces of paper that you carry around with you?
Passwords are, of course, often the only security mechanism protecting private data. Yet this so-called protection is often anything but secure. Passwords like 12345678 or the name of your girlfriend, dog or the car parked outside your door are definitely easy to crack.
Random combinations or real words
Some say the only way to create secure passwords is to use a completely random combination of characters such as ‘qR?y!fO%82&’. But by no means an actual word!
Now try to remember 20 of these kinds of passwords. Was that an O or a zero in the middle? And now try to enter it without any mistakes. Forget it! So you end up writing it down and keeping the list in a place where you are sure to find it again – and anyone else who is looking for it, too. Suddenly, secure becomes quite insecure and something that is impossible to guess can simply be copied.
One solution might be selecting a word that can be easily remembered, then replacing certain characters with other similar ones. For example, ‘I4t3carr0ts!&’: an excellent password. Strong and secure, yet relative easy to remember. But even this password contains plenty of obstacles. Was the password something like ‘iatecarrOts!&’? Or was it ‘latecarr0ts!&’? And which characters did I use as replacements again? A ‘1’? Or was it an ‘L’ instead of an ‘i’? Did I use a zero or an ‘O’? And what were the two characters at the end again?
Long, simple and logical
Mathematicians have now figured out a new way to create secure passwords. The secret lies in the length. Here’s how it works: put four completely random, ordinary words together. You now have a password that is nearly impossible to crack. Take rightpandaclothesheap, for example. To memorize it, try visualizing an image or making up a little story about it. A panda sticks his head in the container at your usual clothing donation collection point and says: “Clothes, heap”. Your response: right, panda, it’s a clothes heap!
You can simply forget about punctuation marks and write everything as a single word. No doubt, you’ve memorized the password already.
A few more rules
However you select your passwords, change them on a regular basis. Never save your passwords in unencrypted form on your hard drive. Do not use the same password for all accounts. Never give out your passwords to anyone else.
But don’t make your life too complicated either!