Another Password Idea
Last month you were introduced to some commercial alrernatives to remembering hundreds of passwords. Most everyone I meet needs some kind of help either remembering passwords or, more importantly, having different and safer passwords.
But how can you have different passwords for everything and remember them all and not have to buy anything? I have one answer which makes almost everyone I show it to happy, so I’ll share here.
First, let me say that buying a program such as those mentioned by Dr. Snipes may very well be the better choice. As a poor grad student, I don’t know. It’s certainly worth investigating further. They certainly have more options. But in the mean time, here’s one free idea.
One other caveat: this is not original to me but I learned of it a while ago (before I learned the ways of the media specialist ninjas and tagging everything on a bookmarking site) and therefore am unable to reference the original source. I apologize. If anyone knows the creator of this idea, add a comment and I’ll update the post immediately.
Ok, here it is. It’s a simple algorithm for different but easily remembered passwords.
First, make up a short five or six character password. It should have letters and numbers and basically be random. No initials or birthdays or any of that nonsense. Just a short string of random characters that you will commit to memory as if it were a new phone number. For the purposes of this post I’ll use “nfv640” which, as far as I know, means absolutely nothing.
Now, when you need to create a password, take the first two and last two letters of whatever site you’re logging into and add them to the beginning and the end of your memorized string. So if I were going to use the characters above, my Amazon.com password would look like: amnfv640on. My Paypal password would become panfv640al. My Goodreads account would be gonfv640ds.
Once you have it down, it’s easy as can be. You never have to struggle to think of a new password, you never have to write it down and you don’t have to take that most dangerous option of all: having the same password for everything. (I’m looking at you, Mom!) It’s also easy to periodically change all you’re passwords. You just come up with a new short string of random characters and begin using that instead. (It would obviously help to at least have a list of all the sites you need passwords for to make changing all of them quicker.)
One other thing that will help keep you safe on the web is having an algorithm for those goofy security questions. That’s how someone hacked into the former governor of Alaska’s Yahoo email account. They tried a fake password and when it didn’t work, were asked the security question of the former governor’s high school. The hacker did a web search, found a bio with this information, and was breaking into the email account in minutes.
What I like to do is just give a similar phrase with the last part being the question asked. So if the question is “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” your answer could be “goofy question maiden name.” If it’s “What street did you grow up on?” your answer could be “goofy question street,” and so on. It doesn’t have to be “goofy question”–it could be anything, but whatever it is, keep it to yourself and simply add on the content of the question and you’ll always know the answer without wracking your brain or being the victim of an easy hack.