How to Choose a Good, Safe, Easy Password

Dennis Faas's picture

As many of us know, coming up with a password can be a real chore. Then you have to be able to remember it!

Actually, it isn't as hard as it sounds.

There are several neat little tricks (or rules) used by the professionals that make password selection easier. Number one is to NOT use anything that someone could decipher by using personal information (names of your pets, parents, spouse, children, street you live on, etc).

For example: use the lyrics of a song you like or use a catchy phrase that sticks in your mind. Take the first letter of the words in the phrase and stick a number in it somewhere. Remember the Coke song, "I want to buy the world a Coke"? Applying the trick to it you get the password (IWTBTWAC1). Since this is a demonstration it would be wise not use this one yourself!

You also should not use a password that uses repeating characters (ATNATNATN1). That is just too easy to figure out. The very best password is a totally random sequence of 6 to 8 (or more) characters with a number dropped anywhere in the sequence.

So, the Password Rules go like this.

  1. Do not use common words, names, or phrases
  2. Do not use repeating characters.
  3. Add a number (or a couple numbers) to a string of characters.
  4. Use something you can remember.

In actuality, there are several more good rules that could be added to the list above, but since we'retalking about using our systems at home, these additional rules might be considered overkill.

So now that we can come up with the password, how do we remember it for the particular situation?

The password storage system I use on my PCs is the KeePass Password Safe. With this package you can store your passwords in an encrypted database that can only be unlocked with a single master key or a key-disk. The database consists of only one file that can be transferred from one computer to another. The program supports password groups and you can drag and drop passwords where needed or use the auto-type feature that types your login information by pressing a hot key. The password list can also be printed (complete database or only current view) for filed away for safe keeping.

I personally use a 20 Mb USB Thumb Drive to store my passwords. The Password Safe is installed on the device with the database file. Whenever I need to get a password or code, I use the device. Nothing is kept on my systems and the device is on my key ring whenever I need it.

Be safe and Have Fun!

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