Passwords 101

September 30th, 2008 Posted in [Re]encoded $1000 Contest

This article is mainly for novice readers. In this article all the suggested password examples are in quotes and the quotes are not part of the password itself.

Nowadays, we all surf the Web and often come across several sites that require you to register with them (most often free of charge). So after the user name the first thing that you have to choose is the password. If you are going to use that account on a regular basis, then remembering strange strings is possible but what if you access it less than say a couple of times every month. So you need an strong but easy-to-remember password.

Why take passwords so seriously?

If it concerns your privacy or security, or maybe anything financial or work-related, it is often better to be on the safe side! Well, don’t you keep your front door locked all the time unless you need to come in or go out. A password is like the key to the front door of your account. Now would you like any intruders or anyone with a key to your door? So it would do you good to remember this: Never share your password with anyone.

Common Mistakes

Many people who are new to the concept of passwords, take it to be a formality. But in case of critical things it is often vital that you choose it carefully so that others cannot guess it. Bad choices would include your name, child’s or spouse’s name or your username itself!! Of course, I am assuming that you won’t be dumb enough to use the word ‘password’ itself or maybe the name of the site! Hey Simon, using ‘Simon‘ or ‘nomis‘ is also not a good idea!

Another well-known and thus well-abused (by hackers, of course) idea is to use keyboard patterns. Look at your keyboard and you will understand why passwords like ‘asdf1234’, ‘!@#$%^’, q1w2e3r4′ and the like, are not really that difficult to guess!! In case you are thinking, ‘I was about to create such an easy-to-type password’ then you have just avoided another common mistake!

Beware!!

It is no surprise that many try to choose really difficult passwords and end up forgetting it which means having to going through the cumbersome process of password retrieval from the site. So you need to know how to choose something that’s not guessable or too short or simple.

Why not short? Or simple (it would make me remember it easily)?

Because in sites with weak security, it is possible to use automated programs to try out passwords one after another, and shorter or simple ones will make their work easier. Remember increasing your password length by each single character will make their work nearly 100 times more difficult!! (But don’t choose a whole sentence as your password πŸ™‚ )

By simple, I mean passwords containing only alphabets, specially meaningful words (as in this paragraph) or just any string, like ‘qwerty‘ or ‘sdkiwmd‘. Passwords containing both alphabets and digits are better.

You must have noticed the characters above the digits 1-9 on your keyboard. (These are called special characters. You insert them by pressing and holding the Shift key and then the corresponding digit key.) The best bet to make good passwords is to add a few special characters.

How to make a really strong password?

Make sure your password is at least 8 characters long (although most sites require a minimum of 6). They are much difficult to crack as I said earlier.

Avoid any kind of personal details or favorites. Such as Beckham should avoid ‘football‘ or ‘Victoria‘ or any modification of these πŸ™‚ . Obviously you are not a celebrity, but it won’t take long for anyone who knows you to guess it.

The simplest trick is to mix small letters and capitals instead of all caps or small. (Yes, they ARE different!!) Such as ‘aQieRhTY‘ would be a much better password than ‘aqierhty‘.

Substitution trick

The use of numerals in place of alphabets, as in this table will make your password several times more difficult to break. Replace the character in your password in the left column with the corresponding one on the right, and congrats on having increased your password strength multiple times!!


Replace With
o 0
O () (pair of brackets)
I 1
i ! (exclamation)
E 3
A 4
S/s 5
P 9
S $ (dollar sign)
a @ (at sign)
W ^^ (two carets)
V \/ (backslash and slash)
boys boyz



The ‘Acronym Trick’

It would obviously be better to have an acronym as your password, isn’t it? Suppose you like the dialogue ‘…Bond. James Bond.’ Your password can be ‘B@Jam3sB‘. Nothing too difficult to remember, but a hell of a trouble to guess!!


Or maybe for the saying ‘All’s well that ends well’, you can use ‘A’sWlTtEsWl!‘. See I used a capital alphabet for the first letter of each word and a small for the last. For ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ try using ‘AaAdkTda‘ (first letters for all words; small alphabets for all words, except minor words having caps).


The advantage of doing so is that you can say the proverb or quote in your mind as you type. So no forgetting or mistakes, unless you forget the quote itself! Try not to make it very complicated by say, using the second alphabets of each word cause it won’t make any difference to the automated programs.


Hope you are able to choose a password really tough to guess or crack, yet easy to remember. (obviously I can remember my fav movie quote!!) Would love to hear any further suggestions in the Comments for making strong but easy-to-remember passwords…

An article by Parag

This article is part of the [Re]encoded $1000 Contest. For more information please visit http://www.reencoded.com/1000-contest/

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