TUCOWS ARTICLE

How to Come Up With Passwords You'll Remember

In the world today there's a lot of concern about security. When you're online many sites will have you "register" and create a username and password. I know that's true of sites where I shop like Office Depot, Sam's Club, Office Max, and others. Some "home" pages will require you to log in. Depending on the number of sites you visit and the kinds of things you do online, you can end up with lots of passwords.
Published: Sep 5, 2005
Author: Michael E, Callahan

This question submitted by Kristine Tormeno, Mike Wilson, Doug Millen and numerous others

In the world today there's a lot of concern about security. When you're online many sites will have you "register" and create a username and password. I know that's true of sites where I shop like Office Depot, Sam's Club, Office Max, and others. Some "home" pages will require you to log in. Depending on the number of sites you visit and the kinds of things you do online, you can end up with lots of passwords. The question arises, "How do I remember all the passwords I have?"

I got this question so many times, phrased so many different ways, that I decided to include my answer in this column. I'm going to share with you the very same advice I shared with my wife and daughters when they first started going online. I hope these little tricks I'll share will be helpful. First of all, however, I'm going to talk a little bit about passwords in general.

There are some rules that are often used in regards to passwords. The rules will vary from company to company or location to location, so I'll just list some of the most common ones:

  • Passwords are always case sensitive
  • Passwords must be longer than 6 character, sometimes 8 characters
  • Passwords should not be words found in the dictionary
  • Passwords should use a mix of UPPER and lower case letters
  • Passwords should include some symbols like $%@! and so on
  • Passwords should be changed frequently, or at least sometime
  • Passwords must be different every place you use one

These are just a few of the more common rules that are used with passwords. Some companies will enforce password rules very strictly. For example, you must have one capital letter, one symbol, 8 characters, one number, and so on. Over the years I have actually spent quite some time reading treatises on passwords and security. And, I would be remiss if I didn't say that some people believe that all the rules regarding passwords are bunk. Useless. Hogwash. Let me elaborate.

As with most rules or laws, there are always people who take an opposing view. I say the speed limit should be 55, you say there shouldn't be one. I say you should be 21 to drink alcohol, you say 18. You say second-hand smoke kills, I say drunk drivers kill. You say a password should follow certain rules and someone will say that the rules aren't needed. Why? Well, one very convincing argument is that if a determined and knowledgeable person wants to get into your computer, or your account on Office Max, your puny password isn't going to stop them. I'm afraid I'd have to agree. If hackers can hack into, and past the passwords on government Web sites, I'm sure they can get most passwords you or I would use if they wanted. What's one rule that can't be broken when it comes to passwords?

You have to remember the password!

So, for our purposes here, I'm going to talk about creating passwords that you can remember. Since many sites will require eight (8) characters lets always work from the premise that we need at least 8. Now, to stop those around you from "hacking" your passwords lets have a few rules about what not to use as a password. A few of these would include:

  • Never use your birthday
  • Never use your spouses name
  • Never use your children's names
  • Never use your own name
  • Never use your address or zip code

You get the idea. Don't use things that anyone who knows you can easily guess. Okay, so what should you use or what can you use? Remember, our goal is to pick passwords that you can remember and that aren't easy to guess. Most people have their coer set up in an area where they can use it easily. Most will have books or manuals or program CDs in that same area. Okay, so pick a program box that's in view of your computer. Notron50 -- from Norton 2005. That's right, spell some things backwards. Pick the beginning of one word and the end of another like: mCafirus from McAfee AntiVirus. Pick the end of one word and the beginning of another like: sTryFirs from Registry First Aid. These are things that even people in the same room would have a hard time guessing. It's like playing "I spy with my little eye..." when you were a kid. Find your own patterns and toss in things that mean something to you!

Pick famous people you admire, dates that have meaning to you, something from a poem or song, numbers that you find easy to remember, spell things backwards, and the like. So, I'll do some just from "Jimi Hendrix 1969" as quick examples:

  • xiRJim69
  • neh96xirD
  • imIjXirD
  • 9691imiJ

They're all different, they're all random, and they'd be hard for most people to guess. Pick names of teachers you had in 8th grade, pick a childhood sweetheart, the name of your prom date, and the like. In a lifetime of living there are literally millions of things that have meaning to you and to no one else. And you can combine things in a way that means something to you. And really, that's one of the most important things -- that you can remember the passwords you use.

So, think about it. In your computer area or in your head there are countless things that you can use to create secure passwords. Create your own scheme, create something that you can remember, but that no one could easily guess. Use parts from book titles, song titles, dates with personal meaning, names of old classmates, teachers, counselors, a city you've always wanted to visit ... I could go on for pages. Create a system that works for you. Create passwords that you can remember. One of the best examples I ever read talked about how our bank PIN codes are only 4 digits, and they protect our money. Sometimes there is the greatest complexity in simplicity.


About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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