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Farhad's Easy, Safe Passwords

Aug 10, 2009

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Scott Cameron

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Another Monday, another password. Outlook told me first thing this morning that my password would expire soon, and asked if I would like to create a new one. I racked my brain for some combination of letters, symbols and numbers that 1) I won't forget, and 2) won't likely be easily hacked. (Note to IT: be kind when I call tomorrow after forgetting my new password). If only I had read Farhad Manjoo's column last month on how to pick a password. I know it's not a novel approach for techies, but for the rest of us:

Start with an original but memorable phrase. For this exercise, let's use these two sentences: I like to eat bagels at the airport and My first Cadillac was a real lemon so I bought a Toyota. The phrase can have something to do with your life or it can be a random collection of words-just make sure it's something you can remember. That's the key: Because a mnemonic is easy to remember, you don't have to write it down anywhere. (If you can't remember it without writing it down, it's not a good mnemonic.) This reduces the chance that someone will guess it if he gets into your computer or your e-mail. What's more, a relatively simple mnemonic can be turned into a fanatically difficult password.

Read step two and the rest of his column on Slate.com.

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