BULLET PROOF PASSWORDS FOR THE NON-GEEK
Are you a one of those who experience guilt pangs every time you log onto the internet and remember that your passwords aren’t that good?
In spite of constant warnings about the dangers of using easy to-guess passwords, many people are still endangering their personal information with such transparent ones as password, open, open up.’ and ‘let me in. The reason is simple. Recommenced passwords, such as xZBq79nZRK264lsGM, are impossible to remember. Consequentially, most people simply fall back into the easy habit of using birthdays and family members’ names things that are all too easily guessed. Is there a way to create passwords that will both defeat hackers and be easy to remember and use? There is.
First, you need to realize that not every site that requires a password is of the same importance. For example, many people read several national newspapers and magazines on-line. News sources and other sites that you usually treat as read only, offer little danger to your personal information. If you choose to participate in their blogs or readers’ forums, they will require a user name and a password.
If you are not making purchases and entering personal information, there is no problem. Simply use your real name or an alias/ screen name, and use the name of your favorite book, actor, or flavor of ice cream as a password for all such sites. Removing the burden of so many different things to remember, will make it all the easier to create the passwords that will protect your truly valuable information.
To create great passwords you will need one tool a moderately good calculator. Something that you might find for a dollar is not a good choice. Find a major brand that will do powers, square roots, and has a key for Phi (3.14159~). Almost any office supply store, drugstore or supermarket will have one for $10-15. Buy it, become acquainted with it, and keep it with your computer. You may, in fact, already have one in your brief / computer case. Great.
THREE EASY STEPS
Let’s say you work on cars or just love cars. You now have the key to creating a great password.
1. Take a common item like fuel pump or brake pedal and add your birthday, March 16, l974 (3/16/74).
2. Enter your birthday in the calculator and square it: 31674^2 =1003242276. Ignore any decimal points and don’t use all the digits in case you loose that calculator.
3. Reducing the ten digits to eight and using your key word (fuel pump) you can have: fue10032422LpumP.
You probably noticed the trick of using a capital letter at the end of a word and breaking the key words fuel pump inside the word fuel to avoid using words that can be found in a dictionary. You might choose to capitalize the second or third letter of each sequence.
Let’s take another example. You teach English and love Shakespeare, especially The Winter’s Tale. Your birthday is 10/26/79. Your birthday (102679) multiplied by Phi is 3225755921 and shorten to eight digits is 32257559. A character in the play is Polixenes. So we can have poli32257559eneS. Or, if you choose, hold the shift key while you enter the numbers and you get: @@@@mailto:poli#@@%&%%(eneS@@poli#@@%&%%(eneS@@@.
The real trick is that you will select a word familiar to you. Good suggestions are weird nicknames or baby talk, specialized technical or mechanical expressions, or classical / foreign / historical names. Always alter the word break it in two, misspell it, or reverse the syllables.
Then pick a date or number (phone number, sports statistic, etc.) that is easy to remember, and a multiplier or divider to generate a non predicable number. It really doesn’t matter what you choose. If you multiple by Phi, when you go to change passwords a few months down the road, you can simply change the key word and divide instead.
When you create new passwords for your important sites, you can even write yourself a coded note to use for a day or so. A coded note could read cune[d]gondE. Even if someone found or stole it they probably couldn’t guess that it stood for Cunegonde [from Voltaire’s Candide] and your son’s birthday divided by whatever number or value you were using at that moment. Once you have mastered the formula for the password after a few uses, you will only need the calculator to generate the number called for, and the note can and should be destroyed.
Remember, your passwords are the combinations to the safes where you store your valuables. The best safe and lock in the world are worth nothing if the combination is easily available. Never store your passwords on line or use a password for one site on a different site. One of the more common ways to steal your information, is to get you to enter the password for your email on another site. Then that site can use your address book to mail spam to others and to gain information about you, your bank, your credit cards, and other personal information.
Finally, pay attention to the news. If there are stories about security breaches at any place where you do business, whether it is your bank, insurance company, or a retailer, make sure to change your password and contact the business to secure your information.
With great passwords you no longer need to feel guilty or insecure when you go on line.