In today’s digital age, we are needing more and more passwords to secure out data and our identity. The problem is that there’s just so many to remember and often different systems need different types of passwords – like needing a special character, or a number or something. It’s very true that people, a very high percentage of people, have one password, or variations of one password, for just about everywhere that a password is needed. This has the benefit of only needing to remember one, or maybe a handful, of passwords, but as a massive disadvantage, it makes not only one system insecure, it makes every single system you need a password for insecure. As soon as one of them nasty hackers discovers a password to one system, they can use it, or variations of it, to easily get in to every other system you use. Your banking, your Facebook, your email. Everything.
The game of using unique, difficult passwords is challenging. There are systems in place and tools you can use to help you store your passwords and many of them are fantastic. However, what I want to share with you here is a method of creating a very easy to remember and difficult to break, passwords that are unique to each and every system you need a password for. There are three concepts needed for creating a unique, memorable password.
1. Make It “Difficult”
First, let’s dispel the stigma that a “difficult” password means that it’s difficult to remember and needs to have a crazy combination of letters, number, or other funny symbols, like this: $fh5jasF88ujm3&hgbh$shfgg3#M08#nm.
No regular person, not for a second, is go going to be able to remember that. What having a “difficult” password really means is that it should be “difficult” for a computer to guess. And no, your birthday is not difficult to guess – never use it as a password. Never. In order to discover a password, a hacker needs to be able to guess what it is. The hacker has a computer, or many computers at their disposal. These computers then try, one letter at a time, to guess your password.
So the problem is having short passwords. The longer the password, the more letters the computers need to guess.
2. Make it Unique
Every system you use a password for invokes some emotion in you. Even if it’s subtle. When you are about to log in to the system what do you feel? Is to happiness (that you need to fill in another login box), is it anger, frustration, embarrassment?
Every system you use is associated with a brand and that brand usually has a major colour they use. Is it red, orange, blue, green?
Every system you use is for a specific purpose. Is it banking, email, socializing, photos?
Now, armed with an emotion, a colour and a purpose you can construct a sentence that uses them. For example, Cloud Productivity is a web site that is orange and it makes me feel happy. Therefore, I cloud use a password for this site that is: “Cloud Productivity is an orange site that makes me happy”. For Gmail, I might use “Gmail is red and I love getting email”.
The uniqueness here is three-fold. The name or purpose of the system, the colour and the emotion. You can of course change these three factors, but three is a magic number, so stick with at least that many keys.
And did you notice how loooong those passwords were! That’s a bit more secure than the often used “qwerty” or “password”, right? A short sentence would take an entire network of computers thousands and thousands of years to figure out. Try it for yourself.
3. Make it Stick
Stickiness, the ability to remember things quickly, is a finicky beast. I wrestle with it often and I often lose. But, passwords I do remember. And when I get to a system that wants a password all I need to do is think about why I’m about to log in, what colours I see, and what I feel like and then the password materializes. The secret here is not so much to try to remember the actual password itself, but to remember how to get to the password. The sentences and phrases you construct are unique to you, they have you twist on them, they relate to your emotions and why you are using that system.
There are other systems around on creating unique passwords, but they still rely on a formula and once a hacker knows that formula, every other system you have a password for becomes compromised.
Try the three-fold sentence structure for your next password. It’s easy to remember, hard to break and if you write it down somewhere, it doesn’t even look like a password!