Friday, January 28, 2011


The subject of proper passwording is not the sexiest article I could write but passwords are becoming more and more prevalent as computers become more and more ubiquitous and it’s important to use one that is secure. Some of you use one password for everything. I personally use 3 different passwords. One password is something really easy to type that I use for newsletters or websites where security isn’t really a big concern. I use two other complex passwords for secure things like my Facebook page or online banking.

A surprising number of people haven’t gotten the message that the internet is full of miscreants who want to do you harm. If I wanted to break into your Facebook, email or online banking account, there is a very good chance that even I would be successful. A recent survey found that 79% of consumers use risky, easy-to-guess passwords. Don’t believe me? Let’s prove it. I can guarantee that at least some of you will use one of the following passwords regularly: 123456, 12345, Password, iloveyou, abc123, 654321 and Qwerty. Other obvious passwords will be either your birthday or the birthday of someone close to you, your children’s first names, driver’s license number or your pet’s name. There was a hacker not too long ago who guessed Sarah Palin’s Yahoo email password by using these very simple suggestions resulting in some delicious entertainment for our nation.

So, let’s shore-up your password security by using a few simple techniques that will make them virtually impossible to guess: Many passwords are hacked using what are known as “dictionary attacks.” In this type of attack, a hacker uses a program that rapidly enters every word in a dictionary in order to guess your password. If you use one word, it will be guessed. Instead, use a mix of characters, words or phrases. For example, use at least 8 characters and preferably 15 or more then add some complexity using capital letters and special characters.

Ssome of you can barely remember your own age; much less a 15 character password. So here is a good recipe for generating and remembering a complex password. Start with a memorable sentence or two such as “Yo mama so fat she had to go to Sea World to get baptized.” Use the first letter of each word to come up with the acronym “ymsfshtgtswtgb.” Add a bit of complexity by capitalizing letters that appear in the first half of the alphabet resulting in “yMsFsHtGtswtgB” Enter 2 or 3 numbers to spice things up a bit, then throw in a special character or three by substituting “$” for “S” or “3” for “E” and “@” for “A.”

If you use a variety of passwords, there is a very useful browser add-in that will help you keep track of all those sites and fill in forms for you. It’s called “Lastpass” and is available from

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