How to Create a Better Password

Posted By BrokenClaw on September 2, 2008

The issue with random passwords in everyday use, of course, is the balance between a good password and something you can remember. For the sake of memory, people often use their pet’s name, their middle name, birth or other significant date, old address, a favorite character, song, or movie title.

In a previous article, we discussed how real words, especially those with some obvious connection to you, are the least secure type of password. FLUFFY is not a good password. However, by using the same word, but typing an adjacent key on the keyboard to the right, left, up, and down, FLUFFY becomes GK7VGU. That’s a better password. In essense, you’d be using an algorithm to create a new password as a hash of FLUFFY (no pun intended).

You can use words and phrases which have special meaning to you, but then you should manipulate those words and phrases into a random-looking password. For example, if you have a favorite poem, quotation, song lyric, or even the words along the margin on a page from a favorite book, you could:

  • Type the first or last letter of a word.
  • Type an adjacent key as described above.
  • Type the number of letters in a word.
  • Change uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Invert the sequence of letters or words.
  • Skip every other letter or word.
  • Transpose letters of the alphabet.

The way that you manipulate the letters and words, the algorithm, should be uniquely yours, but you could use the same algorithm to create different passwords from different phrases.

For example, a simple algorithm might be: First Letter, last letter, number of letters, repeat. With that algorithm, Shakespeare’s quotation, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” becomes Fs10Le4E. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way” becomes Js6Be3Ty. Although they aren’t actually random (they have a pattern), these passwords certainly look random, and no one could guess them without knowing your personal algorithm.

As browser technology improves, they have become more adept at saving your passwords and entering them automatically at each website, so you don’t have to type them yourself. This process is dependent on how secure you keep your computer itself. If you use public computers at a library, you must be especially careful NOT to have the browser save your passwords.

Read more about password security and what makes a better password.

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