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Good password practice

how to choose a good password

For anyone who uses the internet, strong passwords are an essential part of daily life. It doesn’t matter how little time you’re online, you’re likely to find yourself entering, creating, resetting or remembering a password. The sheer number we’re called on to create can make it inconvenient to ensure that each new one is more difficult to crack than the last. not least because you have to also remember it.

how to choose a good password

The reality of the situation is that many of us use weak passwords or have just a single strong password that we reuse over and over, weakening its overall effectiveness. For obvious reasons, neither of those things is a good idea. Luckily, current good password practice can help you come up with a better system for creating and remembering password.
And Technewz show you how.

Strong Password Basics

Conventional wisdom holds that the strongest passwords contain a selection of numbers, upper and lower case letters, and even punctuation, with a length of around 8-14 characters. But what’s the logic there?

The criteria these passwords are trying to fulfil are simple: they need to be unguessable, and they need to be nearly impossible to read1 through simple enumeration (trying every combination of letters and numbers) or by dictionary attacks (using a word list of standard passwords).

A strong password makes enumeration too inefficient to use and dictionary attacks useless because the password isn’t a common enough string to be found in a word list.

To explain how this works, we’ll start by imagining that your password is particularly short – just three letters long. Not because that’s a good idea (it really isn’t). but because the numbers make a little more sense at this end of the scale.

If you use an existing word, such as ‘cat’ or ‘pin’ or it would be relatively easy for someone to crack the password. There are only around a thousand three-letter words in the English language, so it would take no more than 1,000 guesses to crack any three-letter password that appears in the dictionary. This could potentially be accomplished in minutes by a decent attacker.

So what happens if we now assume that the password isn’t limited to words in the dictionary? This means any letter can be one of 26, so the total number of potential passwords is 17.576 (26 x 26 x 26). Quite dearly, this is 17 times harder to guess than a
three-letter word, but even that only raises the time an attack would take to succeed into the order of hours.

Luckily, it can be harder still. Adding case-changes into your password helps malts each letter twice as hard to guess, which increases the security exponentially. If any letter can be upper or lower case, there are 52 potential characters each one could be, meaning an attacker would have to try up to 140,608 combinations (52 x 52 x 52) to get your password. 140 times harder to guess than a three letter dictionary word.

Numbers add another tens options and punctuation another 35 (or thereabouts). If you mix numbers, upper and lower case letters and punctuation, each character can be one of 95 potentials, meaning the total number of potential passwords is 912,673 – almost a thousand times harder to find than a dictionary word.
At this point, we can show you why password length matters, because under those conditions, if a three-letter password gives you up to 912,673 potential passwords, a four-letter password gives you 88,529,281 (88.5 million) and a five-letter password give you 8,587,340,257 (8.5 billion) potential combinations.
And most systems demand at least eight letters, which would take years for a single computer to enumerate – assuming the attack already knows that your password is eight letters long. Effectively, it’s uncrackable.

A More Memorable Password

But the problem with strong passwords is that they’re hard to remember. A gibberish mix of punctuation and letters is hard to
crack, but it’s also hard for your brain to get a grip on as well. Sure, you can go through the password recovery process if you lose access, but that’s inconvenient and engineers users to prefer simpler passwords. Typing a complex password correctly once can be hard enough.

The alternative is to come up with a passphrase instead of a password. Passphrases are lengthy combinations of words that mean something to you, but which would be indistinguishable from gibberish to a computer making an attack on a password system. Famous quotes or opening lines mixed with punctuation and numbers give you a long password that’s easy to remember but hard for a computer to crack.

For examples, you might choose something like “15MenOnADeadMan’sChest” or “StarTrek:TheNextGeneration1701D”. These passwords are long and complex enough to be effectively uncrackable, but they’re also simple to remember because they have meaning to humans. In computational terms they’re scarcely any easier for a computer to crack than a password like “m|2wxljZ!U{UdD kO[J9U#g 1 A” would be, but they’re an order of magnitude easier to remember.
The only problem you’re likely to encounter is that some sites won’t let you have passwords that long (in which case you should choose a shorter phrase).

Of course, that only solves one problem: how to remember a difficult password. What about the next problem: remembering ten, 15 or 20 difficult passwords so you’re never using the same one twice?

Avoiding Re-Use

The only way to keep your password truly secure is to use a different one on every system you access. That way, if a shopping website or forum you use gets hacked and your password is stolen, you’ll know it’s useless for any other site. But short of writing them all down or storing them in a secure system, how are you supposed to remember enough passwords to never duplicate them?

The best way to do it is to create an algorithm. This means you don’t have to remember the password at all; you simply remember the algorithm and that allows you to essentially construct your password the same way every time.

To give a practical example, imagine you use the passphrase “99RedBalloons!”. The more places you use it, the greater the chance it’ll be cracked or intercepted, so the less secure every account you use is.

But if you modify the password for every site – perhaps by adding both the number of letters in the domain and the last two letters of the domain to the end of your password – it becomes unique to every site.

In this circumstance, your Facebook password would become “99RedBalloons!8ok” and your Amazon password would become “99RedBelloons!6on”. If someone cracks one password, they won’t be able to use it on any other site, but because you know the algorithm to create the password, you only need to remember the basic elements and fill in the gaps each time.

Final Advice

If nothing else, the most important thing is that you don’t use the same password for your email account anywhere else.

If someone gets into your email account, they can potentially gain access to any site you use by changing the password through the account recovery process. Above all, keep your email password unique and unguessable to anyone but you.

Of course, there’s a chance even the best passwords can be cracked somehow. and even if they’re not, a loophole could allow someone to access your account another way.

Remaining vigilant at all times is the only way to keep your data completely safe. Having the right passwords is just the first part of that process!

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