Password Security: Food for Thought

Password Strength
Today's food for thought comes courtesy of Caitilin Walsh, the president-elect of the American Translators Association. Judy and Caitilin were recently discussing password security, and how difficult it is to keep all our passwords straight. We've written about Keepass, the free password management software that we use. It can randomly assign complex passwords (with letters and special characters) or lets you create your own. However, Caitilin, who is married to a Microsoft engineer, correctly pointed out that recent data suggests that it's easier to hack into accounts that have combinations of numbers and special characters than into accounts with four random words after another. Try it -- just choose four random words from the dictionary. We just tried this with our Mother Jones magazine and came up with defense/sense/similar/common. The image you see here came from this very funny website (visit the site for a larger image of the cartoon). Thanks for sharing, Caitilin!


Svetlin Simeonov on November 30, 2011 at 3:52 AM said...

Hello , i think this is very nice and useful information .I've never thought of this till now. I will definitely try this method.

May on November 30, 2011 at 6:26 AM said...

That's really interesting. Google has been running print ads regarding basic internet security that seem to advocate the random characters method of selecting a password. You can see the ad here.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 30, 2011 at 9:45 AM said...

@Svetlin: happy to share.

@May: thanks for letting us know about Google's approach! Both methods probably work quite well, the four-word approach might just be easier to remember and maybe even more robust in terms of safety.

Caitilin on November 30, 2011 at 12:12 PM said...

My very first email account came with an assigned password made of two common but unrelated long words. Twenty years later, I can still easily remember it. Mathematically, it is stronger than the 8-digit random characters recommended by those who seem intent on propagating the myth of random character (including my bank--arrgh!).

Thanks for helping spread the word! (And when you think about it, multilinguals have a distinct advantage when choosing those words, don't we?)

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 30, 2011 at 5:30 PM said...

@Caitilin: thanks for chiming in. Ms. president-elect. We are honored to have you. :) And yes, we do have many advantages because of our languages, you are absolutely right. Down with random characters.

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