How to remember passwords: Do you have a ******** problem?
A British survey once revealed that over 70 percent of London commuters would reveal their computer password in exchange for a bar of chocolate. Would you?
The same survey found that common tactics when choosing a password were to use the same one for all accounts, or to write passwords down and keep them close by.
It’s like we’ve forgotten why passwords are required. It’s not to make our lives difficult; it’s to restrict access to our personal and business information.
Identity theft, fraud and network intrusion are very real risks, and passwords are the line of defence that protects us. Using weak passwords, keeping them written down or sharing them damages those defences, leaving us vulnerable.
Can a three year old guess your password?
The arguments used against strong and complex passwords often include that they’re hard to remember, and that the number of passwords we each need to remember is growing all the time. Changing your password regularly just complicates things further.
"It’s like we’ve forgotten why passwords are required. It’s not to make our lives difficult; it’s to restrict access to our personal and business information."
Using a few easily remembered phrases based on the names of your family and pets, date of birth and favourite sports teams makes it easier for you, but if even the youngest members of your family knows these things about you, it’s likely somebody trying to access your accounts will too.
What can you do?
The best passwords have a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Some passwords can also include spaces, which adds some more variation and makes the password harder to guess.
Some experts advocate the use of a series of random words, which are easier to remember – but the level of security this provides does depend on what method might be used to crack your password.
If you’re really concerned, there are websites that can check your passwords, such as this one from Microsoft, which tell you how hard your password will be to crack.
Not all websites are created equal. Some don’t store your carefully considered password very securely, and if one of those sites is compromised, your password, email address and any other available details will be collected and tried against numerous other websites in the hopes of gaining access to something more sensitive. This is why it’s best to keep different passwords for different accounts.
The human brain is an amazing thing, and it can remember more than you’d expect. After typing any password enough times, no matter how obscure it may be, your hands will remember the action.
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My brain’s not that amazing. What are my options?
There are a number of password managers available, and some anti-virus products even bundle a password manager in with their products. The idea is that you use one really secure password to access the password manager, and the password manager remembers all your other extremely secure passwords for everything else, entering them in and then waiting for you to submit the details to log you in. The best ones are easy to use and do the encryption of all data on your computer – so unencrypted password data is never transferred over the internet.
You’ll still need to remember the password to log into your computer and a few key passwords for programs that are not compatible with such a manager, but you will have far fewer passwords to remember in total, so you should keep be able to keep a few good passwords in order.
Have you had a password problem? And how did you overcome it? Share your tips on how to remember passwords.