Considering the increasing attention passwords have been getting lately, I thought it was about time we sit down and establish some new rules to define exactly what is a password. After all, so much of our personal lives, finances, and identities rely on these obscure jumbling of letters, numbers, and punctuation.

1. Password, 1234, letmein, and anything else that you see on this common passwords cloud are not passwords.

Recently I took my son over to a friend’s house and when we got there we found he lived in a gated community that required a PIN to enter. My son was about to call his friend when I told him, “I got this.” I reached over and entered 1234 and the gate promptly swung open. Yeah my son was very impressed at my hacker skills, but the fact is that 1234, 12345, or even 12345678 are not strong enough to be considered passwords.

 

2. If you google your password and get more than 10,000 results, it is not a password.

It’s really simple, if your password shows up that many times in Google, your password is not a password it is a dictionary or common wordlist word.

3. If your password is 8 characters or less, it is not a password.

An 8-character password just isn’t strong enough these days to be considered a password. Most 8-character passwords consist of a dictionary word or name with a couple numbers added to the end. These are incredibly easy to crack and will not stand up to a brute force attack no matter what type of encryption used. If your password is 8 characters long, you might have a PIN, but it certainly is not a password, which is probably why banks seem to love limiting password length to 8 characters. I recently explained just how much of a difference there is between an 8-character password and a 10-character password, but maybe this would illustrate it better:

8 Character Password

This is the equivalent of an 8-character password

6 Character Password

This is the equivalent of a 6-character password

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. If you use it on multiple sites, it is no longer a password.

Considering the huge number of passwords hacked and dumped on the internet every single day, I would hope that most of us have learned that you simply cannot reuse the same passwords on multiple sites. You are better off never even considering using the same passwords everywhere because it is easy to fall into that habit.

Just to illustrate why this is such a big deal, there are people such as me who collect passwords. Here is a list of all the passwords I have for the username bonehead. Now if I know that there is a user named bonehead on a web site, I can try all of these passwords and chances are surprisingly good that one of these passwords is correct. Why is this such an effective technique? Because everyone reuses their passwords on multiple sites.

5. If a password is older than 3 years, it has expired and is no longer a password

I know some of you get really attached to your passwords, but it is time to start using a password manager and changing those very old Hotmail and PayPal passwords.  You wouldn’t eat 3-year old food, so don’t use a 3-year-old password.

6. If you tell someone your password, it is no longer a password

Certainly sometimes it is necessary to share an account, but there is no excuse for telling someone your personal passwords, and this includes writing them down and sticking them on your monitor. If you have trouble doing this, one trick is to set your password as some phrase that reveals some highly personal or embarrassing fact you would never tell anyone–problem solved!

So come on people, we really can make passwords that really are passwords. Passwords don’t need to be totally random and they don’t always have to have numbers, capitals, and punctuation, but they do need to be long, unique, and secret!

 

 

 

 



Yubikey Token        LastPass password manager